Hear! O My Sons

Written by :   Zac Poonen Categories :   Youth Man
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Chapter 0
Introduction

This book contains extracts from emails that I wrote to my four sons when they were single and away from home. They were studying in colleges at first and then working. They were in their late teens and in their twenties at that time.

Fathers are told to bring up their children " in the instruction of the Lord". So, most of what I wrote was instruction from the Word of God that would lead them to be devoted to the Lord Jesus. I wanted them to be established from a young age in the truths of God's Word, since I knew that, that alone would preserve them as young men in the midst of "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matthew 16:4). I also wanted them to be able to share God's truth accurately with others.

I emphasised and repeated some matters many times in my mails, because of their paramount importance. Some matters are repeated numerous times in the New Testament too, for the same reason. I emphasised holiness, taking up the cross and the overcoming life primarily - because these important truths were not being emphasised in Christendom in general.

I exhorted my sons in those days to listen regularly to cassettetapes of my messages. Today, you can watch my messages on YouTube and on the CFC website - www.cfcindia.com

One chapter in this book contains the advice I gave them on choosing a life-partner and getting married. All four of them followed my advice and married godly young women, as described in that chapter. For this I am deeply thankful to the Lord.

I only planted the seeds that God gave me. God watered the seeds, nurtured the plants and brought forth fruit in their lives. I give God all the glory for His working in their lives.

It is more than 25 years now since I wrote some of these letters. My views remain the same and I stand by everything that I wrote then.

I have combined all the emails together here, removing headings, dates, greetings, names and signature lines, since these would serve no purpose in this book.

This book has been divided into chapters only to make it easier to read. The chapters have not been divided subject-wise or in any order of priority.

90% of what I wrote to my sons would be equally applicable to young girls as well. So they too can read this book.

This book should be read slowly, for it contains the substance of many mails on different topics. There is "strong meat" here, and not just "milk". So my recommendation would be that you read only one chapter a day and stop and think about what you have read and absorb the truths in that chapter, before moving on. And let me urge you to look up all the Scriptures quoted herein and meditate on them. In that way, your life can be radically changed for the better - in a very short time.

I pray that this book will be a blessing to all young people who read it.

Bangalore
January 2017

Zac Poonen

Chapter 1
Chapter 1

God's Plan for Your Life

Even though you are a disciple of Jesus, there will continue to be ups and downs in your life, as with all of us. However, the decision you took to be a disciple will remain unchanged. You have chosen to be married spiritually to the Lord Jesus and to follow Him forever. You will never go back on that decision. And you made that decision not for any personal gain or profit, but only because you felt a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Lord for what He had done for you. You love Him now because He first loved you.

God's will for you now is that your path (the path of the righteous) should go from one degree of glory to another (Prov.4:18). So each year should be a more glorious one for you than the years gone by - with a greater degree of purity and humility and love than you had before. That should be your goal.

God also has a ministry for you in His church in the days to come. So, make purity and humility and love, your goals all the days of your life, because the Lord cannot use vessels that are unclean or proud. May the Lord make you flaming, Spirit-filled witnesses for Him. Seek God for the power of the Holy Spirit, and always remain rooted and grounded in the fear of God and in humility (Prov.22:4). God preserves those who fear Him, and He gives His grace to the humble.

Your feelings will fluctuate and are therefore always undependable. True spirituality however lies in your decision to set your will on God's side. So train your will to refuse to get discouraged. Overcome Satan's accusations by the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from sin as soon as you confess it (Rev.12:11).

Those Whom Jesus Accepted

Honesty is the main thing that God requires from all of us. In Psalm 51 (read this in the Living Bible), we see the attitude of heart that David had, that made God accept him (even though he had committed adultery with a woman and then killed her husband). In contrast, we see the honour-seeking attitude of Saul (1 Sam.15:30), that made God reject him for what was apparently a small mistake. Dishonesty and hypocrisy are like a little bit of yeast in dough. They can't be hidden for long. Their effects will become manifest sooner or later. You must fear these evils more than anything else.

Consider why some people could not come to Jesus when He was on earth:

- The Pharisees - because they were self-righteous, despised others, and justified themselves;

- The scribes and the doctors of the Law - because they were proud of their intellect and their Bible-knowledge;

- The rich young ruler - because he loved his money too much and was unwilling to give up the one thing that Jesus told him to give up.

- The two would-be disciples (mentioned in Luke 9:59-62) - because they were too attached to their relatives.

Now look at the people who could freely come to the Lord:

- an outcast leper (Matt.8:1-4);

- a woman caught in adultery (Jn.8:1-11);

- Peter, even after he had denied the Lord thrice (Jn.21:15-17); \

- a Roman military man (Matt.8:5-13);

- a Canaanite woman (Matt.15:21-28).

The last two in this list were non-Israelis. Yet in the gospels, these arethe only two whom the Lord publicly praised for their great faith. Read those passages and you will see their deep humility, in their attitude towards the Lord. Great faith is always linked closely with great humility . Only the poor in spirit can come to the Lord; and the kingdom of heaven belongs to such people. Remember this all your life.

Justification

Many of God's children do not have boldness to come before God, because they are constantly weighed down with feelings of condemnation. It is important for you to know for certain that you have been justified (declared righteous) by God, because you have repented of your sin and trusted in Christ.

To be "in Christ" (an expression that is often used in `Ephesians') is to have Christ clothe you. Now you can approach God as freely as Christ Himself can. Your past sins - however many, and however serious and great - have not only been forgiven, they have also been cleansed away. They are no longer remembered by God against you (Heb.8:12). You have now become " the righteousness of God in Christ" (2 Cor.5:21).

God has not only placed your sins on Christ, He has also clothed you with Christ's righteousness. Otherwise it would have been impossible for you to stand in His holy presence, where even angels have to cover their faces. Now having been declared righteous, you are to keep your conscience clean at all times, by immediate confession of sin to God and man (Acts 24:16), so that you can always have boldness of access to God (1 John 3:21). You must never lose that boldness, because it brings a great reward (Heb.10:35).

You must never be fearful when approaching your Heavenly Father. Always go to Him with boldness; because feelings of condemnation are never from God. He doesn't give His children the crumbs that fall from the table, but the children's bread. He wants even prodigal sons who have only just come back from the far country, to sit at His right hand, immediately.

Forgiveness and Justification

It is very important that you overcome Satan's accusations by confessing that the blood of Jesus has justified you (declared you not just forgiven but righteous) (Rev.12:11). There is a vast difference between forgiveness and justification. If a person is charged in a court and the charges are proved against him, but the judge lets him off because the man is repentant, he can walk out of the court happy butwith his head hanging down - for he is a forgiven criminal. If on the other hand, the judge, after carefully examining all the charges against him, finds all the charges to be false and declares the man to be 100% righteous, then he can walk out of the court with his head held high - because no guilt was found in him and he has been declared righteous. That is how God justifies us (declares us righteous). God is called the " Lifter of our head" (Psa.3:3-KJV).

Many believers have their heads hanging down because they have not understood the power of the blood of Christ to justify them. They have only heard of its power to forgive them. Hebrews 8:12 says that God will not remember our sins any more. That means that he looks on usjust as if we had never sinned in our entire life. " His mercies are new every morning" (Lament.3:23) means that God looks at us each morning just as if He had never forgiven us even once before. This is why you must never allow feelings of condemnation to come upon you at any time - for that is unbelief in the goodness and the mercy of God. " His goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of our life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever " (Psa.23:6).

Satan gets power over us whenever he can get us discouraged or feeling condemned. We don't become devoted to the Lord by fear of judgment, but by responding to His tremendous kindness and goodness in repeatedly forgiving us so much. "He who is forgiven much loves much", Jesus said (Lk.7:47). I have an obligation to love the Lord greatly today because I have been forgiven much. I cannot but live the rest of my life for Him. And in eternity I do not expect a reward for my labours. His having forgiven me so much is by itself enough reward. As someone has said:

"I cannot work my soul to save

For that my Lord has done.

But I will work like any slave

For love of God's dear Son".

May that be your song too - all the days of your life, and then you will be a happy man, whether you have much or little of this world's goods.

Whom God Justifies

Consider an Old Testament picture of justification. Leviticus 13 deals with instructions concerning those who had contracted leprosy (a picture of sin). Verses 9 to 17 are most instructive. A small, white patch was called 'chronic leprosy' (v.10, 11). But when the leprosy had spread and covered the entire body, the man was declared 'Clean' (v.12, 13)! But if even a small spot of raw flesh came up again somewhere in his body, he was categorised as leprous again (v.14, 15). If it again became totally white, then he was clean once again (v.16, 17).

Consider the application of this for us today. As long as you think that there is something good in you (just a small patch of goodness somewhere), you will be unclean in God's sight. But the moment you acknowledge that you are totally corrupt ("Nothing good dwells in my flesh" - Rom.7:18), without even the smallest patch of goodness, then God will declare you clean!

If some action of yours has brought confusion or hurt to others, and you justify it by saying that your intentions were good, then you still have leprosy. But if you confess that your flesh is totally evil, and that nothing good could possibly be found in it (Rom.7:18), then God justifies you. You are clean.

The principle is this: God justifies those who do not justify themselves.

The Pharisee in the temple, who saw some good in himself went away condemned by God. But the tax-collector who saw nothing good in himself went away justified (Lk.18:14). Be quick then to acknowledge your total corruption and sin at all times, so that God can justify you immediately.

Facing the Accuser

In the early part of your Christian life you will have many ups and downs. The graph of your life will have many deep dips. But as you go on, those dips will become shallower. So don't get discouraged by failures. Get up and keep going.

Those who are tormented by some terrible failure in their past life must stop listening to the accusations of Satan. Believe that the blood of Christ has cleansed you from all your sins (Rev.12:11). Then give Satan the word of your testimony from Hebrews 8:12 that God has promised never to remember your past sins any more. Demons and evil men may remember your past and hold it against you, and may seek to even torture you with those memories. But God will never do that. If you are in doubt about God's forgiveness, because you are overwhelmed by the memory of some past sin, then confess that sin one last time to God right now, and ask the Lord to forgive you, believing that God is faithful and righteous to forgive you. Thereafter never ever think about that sin again. Thus we glorify the power of the blood of Jesus and the great mercy of God.

We must overcome the accusations of Satan and put Satan to flight at the speed of lightning (Lk.10:18). We must know that the Lord " does not remember the sins of our youth...and He does not allow the enemy to triumph over us. So we are not ashamed " (Psa.25:1, 7). That verse in Psalm 25 tells us that even David had " sins of his youth" although he is wise not to tell us what those sins were. Even in Psalm 51, he only refers to sin in general and never makes any reference to any specific sin. This is wisdom, and this is how we must acknowledge our sin before men always - never be specific about sin, unless we have sinned against them. We must be specific with God, but never with man. This is the folly of the Roman Catholic confessional, which principle is unfortunately practised by many charismatic and cult-groups as well.

Ephesians 2:7 tells us that in the ages of eternity, God is going to take us and show us forth as trophies of His grace - not trophies of our faithfulness, but of His grace. Think how Satan's mouth will be shut in that day, when God holds forth the vilest of sinners and shows everyone what His grace made of them. He will also show forth believers who failed (like Peter) and how they too were transformed. The angels will be amazed at what God was able to do in the lives of sinful wretches and failing believers.

Chapter 2
Chapter 2

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:38 makes it clear that to receive the Holy Spirit, all that Peter required from those who were convicted of their sins was this: " Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins - and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ." Receiving the Holy Spirit is the same as receiving Christ into your heart.

Romans 8:9 says: " If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit), he doesn't belong to Him ". In other words, such a person is not even born again. When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts, it is His Spirit (the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit) Who comes in, for Jesus Himself is in heaven. Then we are born again (or born of the Spirit).

The baptism (immersion) of the Spirit however refers to being filled with the Spirit. Only those who thirst to be filled will be filled, as Jesus said in John 7:37. You must yield every area of your heart to the Lord and ask Him in faith to fill you. The fire of the Holy Spirit comes from heaven and not from any man. You don't have to go to any meeting to get that heavenly fire. God meets with sincere hearts wherever they are. You can seek the Lord in your own room and He will meet with you there. Some of the greatest men of God received the baptism (fullness) of the Spirit when they were alone in a room. God is a rewarder of all who seek Him diligently.

God's promise (through Joel) that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost was: "Upon My bond-slaves I will pour out My Spirit" (Acts 2:18). A bond-slave is one who has no rights. To be a bond-slave is to let God have total sway over your life. It means that henceforth, you allow God to deal with you exactly as He wishes, without any complaints from your side.

Being filled with the Spirit, Jesus said, was very similar to drinking water (John 7:37-39). Paul uses the same picture in 1 Cor.10:4 and 12:13. But just as in drinking water, you have to open your mouth and swallow, even so in being filled with the Spirit, you have to open every part of your heart and receive - in simple faith. Whenever you ask God for anything according to His will, you must believe that you have received what you have asked for (Mark 11:24). So surrender every area of your life to the Lord and then ask Him in faith to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Then thank God that He has heard your prayer. The mouth is the overflow-valve of the heart through which we express our thanksgiving (Matt.12:34). So keep thanking God and ask Him to give you an assurance that He has filled you.

The Gifts of the Spirit

The fullness of the Spirit is not a matter of mere emotional excitement. Unfortunately many are satisfied with just that. But what you need is power to live in victory and to be a bold witness for Christ. Seek for that continuously. Jesus said, " You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses " (Acts 1:8). The evidence of the fullness of the Spirit, Jesus said would be power. The purpose of the fullness of the Spirit, Jesus said here, was that we might be His witnesses - not just bear witness to Him but BE His witnesses - by our life and our words.

So be bold to seek the Lord for the gift of prophecy (obeying the commands in 1 Cor.14:1 and 39). Then you will be able to share God's Word powerfully to others, according to the spiritual need of each person - both privately as well as in church-meetings. To prophesy is to speak to people (privately or publicly) with words that will encourage them, comfort them and build them up (1 Cor.14:3). This is the most important gift of the Spirit that you must seek for. God wants you to be bold. So drive the spirit of timidity away from you - for that is not from God. (2 Tim.1:7).

In Luke 11:5-13 we see how it was a concern for his friend that made that man to go to his neighbour's house at midnight to get food for his guest. Jesus went on to say that it was thus that we are to seek for the gifts of the Spirit (Lk.11:13). God will give this gift of prophecy to those who have a care and a concern for the spiritual needs of those whom they know and meet.

You need to be filled with the Spirit again and again, for this is not a once-for-all experience. Thirst and faith are the only two conditions for that. Claim John 7:37-39, in the Name of Jesus, as your birthright. It is good to have a promise to claim when you go to God in prayer. That will make you bold, and will also prove that you are not coming to God as a beggar, but as a son who is entitled to the "children's bread" - and not to the crumbs that fall from the table.

Speaking in Tongues

And now a word about the gift of speaking in unknown tongues (languages) - since this is often associated with the fullness of the Spirit. God does not give this gift to everyone - because He sees that everyone does not need it. 1 Cor.12:30 is very clear that " all do not speak in tongues". So be open to God and leave it to Him to decide whether He wants you to have it or not.

Seek God first of all, to give you the power of the Spirit to control your tongue in your normal speech, from sins like anger, lying, etc., That is far more important than having the gift of speaking in unknown tongues. James 3:2 days that one who does not sin in his speech is a perfect man. Speaking in unknown tongues however has not made anyone perfect.

What is the purpose of speaking in tongues? When we praise God, we find that the English language is limited. Our heart is full, but what is in our heart has to pass through the narrow pipe of the English language in our mind before it comes out of our mouth. But if the mind is bypassed, then the abundance in our heart can go straight from our heart to our mouth. We can then express whatever is filling our heart (abundance of thanksgiving or pressure caused by grief) to God, in syllables that we don't understand, but that God understands very well, for He listens to the heart. Thus the pressure on the heart is relieved through being expressed. 1 Cor.14:14 says that our mind cannot understand what we are saying, when we speak in tongues. So we don't try to analyse our speech when we speak in tongues.

Faith is not against reason, but it is far beyond reason - just like calculus is far ahead of simple addition. We live in a world where so much emphasis is placed on the mind and the reason. But the human spirit that God has placed within us is greater than our mind. That is why our mind cannot understand the language of our spirit. We do not destroy our intellect, for it is a wonderful gift of God, but we do have to dethrone it. Paul said that he spoke in tongues more than everyone else - perhaps because he faced more pressure in his ministry than all the others and therefore needed it more than the others (1 Cor.14:18).

The gift of speaking in tongues can help us when we are discouraged, when we are under pressure, when we can't think of anything particular to pray about, when we don't know how to pray about a complicated situation, or when we are just too tired to concentrate and want to relax. We can lie down in our bed and pray in tongues. With the gift of tongues, you can pour out your heart to your heavenly Father, in syllables that you don't understand yourself, but that expresses your heart's deepest longings.

I got an encouraging letter from a young brother who could not come for our Discipleship Seminar last December. But he was eager to listen to the tapes of the Seminar. When he listened to the tape of the meeting where we had spoken about being filled with the Holy Spirit, he got a great thirst for this himself. He decided to seek God like Jacob who said to the Lord, " I will not let You go, until You bless me" (Gen.32:26). He went to his room and prayed but found that there was no burden in his prayer and no longing. As he searched his heart, he saw that there was one thing in his life that he had not surrendered to the Lord. That one thing was not something sinful. But it still took the place that the Lord should have in his life. Immediately he surrendered it to the Lord - and God poured out His Spirit on him and he began to speak in tongues and he wept with tears of joy.

It was really encouraging to hear how God met with someone who could not come for the seminar. I was reminded of Numbers 11:25-29 which says: " The Lord came down in the cloud and took of the Spirit Who was upon Moses and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And it came about that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them and they prophesied in the camp. So a young man ran and told Moses and said, `Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp'. Then Joshua said, `Moses, my lord, restrain them.' But Moses said to him, `Are you jealous for my sake? Would that ALL the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! '"

The God Who worked like that in Moses' time is just the same today. There is no partiality with God. He is a rewarder of all who diligently seek Him in humility. The clever and the intelligent usually get left out - not because of their intelligence, but because of their pride.

It is important to notice what it says in Acts 2:4 about the disciples speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost. Read that verse carefully. It was the disciples themselves who opened their mouth and used their tongues, when they spoke in tongues. The Holy Spirit did not move their tongues. He does not move anybody's tongue. It is only evil spirits who control people in such a way that they move people's tongues. When casting out demons, I have heard evil spirits speak through people. Those people had no control over their tongue at such times, because the evil spirit moved it. The Holy Spirit however does not operate like that. He only gives us the gift. He expects us to move our tongues ourselves to exercise the gift He gives us - exactly as we do, when He gives us the gift of preaching (prophecy). So, " open your mouth wide - and God will fill it" (Psa.81:10).

When you receive the gift of tongues, use it only in your private prayer - especially when you don't know what to say to God. This gift is essentially for our private communion with God and not primarily for public use. It can be exercised in a church-meeting only if there is someone there with the gift of interpreting tongues (1 Cor.14:28). Since we won't often know whether anyone has the gift of interpretation, it is safest to use the gift in private only - as Paul did (1 Corinthians 14:18,19). But, as I said earlier, seek more earnestly for purity in your normal speech.

Don't discuss this subject with Christians who don't believe in the gifts of the Spirit - because it will lead to unnecessary arguments. Some Christians despise this gift of the Spirit - and it is easy when mingling with such believers to slowly devalue this gift yourself. Don't ever allow the Christendom around you to mould you into its way of thinking. Stick to the teaching of God's Word.

Jesus never needed to speak in tongues, because His mind had no limitations and was perfectly pure and because His fellowship with His Father was also perfect at all times. That is why speaking in tongues will disappear when we get to heaven - when "the perfect has come" and "we put away childish things" and " we see the Lord face to face" (1 Cor.13:8-12). So the gift of tongues is only for temporary use in our imperfect state here on earth. But prophesying is 2000 times superior to tongues in church-meetings (10,000/5; see 1 Cor.14:19) - because prophesying is proclaiming God's Word to encourage and build up others (1 Cor.14:3).

The Holy Spirit says that if everyone in a church speaks in tongues at the same time it will rightly be called "a mad church " (1 Cor.14:23)!! So avoid such churches. But He also tells churches: " Do not forbid to speak in tongues" (1 Cor.14:39). That is the right balance.

The Purpose of the Baptism in the Spirit

After I was filled with the Holy Spirit afresh in January1975, I decided to read the New Testament all over again, from Matthew chapter 1. The very first day, what I got from the Word was an assurance of my being filled with the Spirit. I read of how Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came upon her just like He came upon me. And I learnt the following truths from Matthew 1:18-23 that day:

- Even as only Mary (and no-one else) knew what the Spirit had done for her - so will it be for me too;

- For many months, Mary and others had no external proof in her body that she was pregnant. I too may have no external consciousness of what the Spirit has done in me for a long time. I will have to live by faith. But as time went on, Mary and others could see. And as time goes on, it will become more and more manifest to me and to others also as to what God has done;

- Others misunderstood Mary and spoke ill of her. I will face this too;

- The Spirit came upon Mary to bring forth the body of Jesus through her. With me too, the Spirit has come upon me first of all, to bring forth the life of Christ through me; and secondly, that the body of Christ may be built through my labours.

The baptism (filling) of the Spirit brings us into the realm of spiritual battle. God allows us to face conflict in our spirit, so that we may know the mighty authority that we have been given over Satan and all evil spirits. In Luke 10:19 Jesus said, "

I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will by any means hurt you

." God permitted the disciples of Jesus to face a storm on the lake of Galilee so that they could experience the mighty power of the Lord to still it.

Chapter 3
Chapter 3

Temptation and Sin

Since life is so short, you must make full use of every temptation that you face in your lives to be an overcomer and thus acquire the heart of wisdom that you should present to God at the end of your earthly days (Psa.90:12). You must not leave this earth with any sins still unconquered in our lives. To be wholehearted is to have a burning desire to present yourself to God without any spot (Heb.9:14).

There is a difference between temptation and sin. If an evil thought flashes into your mind, that is temptation. If you dwell on it, or accept it, then it becomes sin. When you see a girl and you are tempted to lust after her, that is temptation. If you continue to look at her, or to think about her, you sin. The first look was temptation and is unavoidable. The second look is sin - and is avoidable. You don't have to feel condemned when some temptation comes to our mind. Even Jesus was tempted in His mind. You can say "No" with your will. Then you will be an overcomer. It is for strength to say "No" that Jesus cried and prayed for help (Heb.5:7). You must also cry out in the same way for help.

Satan Has Been Defeated

Satan was defeated by Jesus on the cross, nearly 2000 years ago - and that is something that you must never forget. Today, we stand on that victory; we don't fight to win the victory. Satan is too powerful and too clever for human beings. He has fooled and overcome billions of people through the centuries. But he will flee from you if your conscience is clear (when the blood of the Lamb has cleansed your heart) and when you speak to him and resist him in the Name of Jesus (Rev.12:11; James 4:7). Remember this always. I have believed and practised and preached this - and this is what Satan hates to hear.

You must be rooted and grounded in the knowledge that Satan and all his demons were thoroughly defeated on the cross of Calvary, once and for all (Heb.2:14; Col.2:15). Then Satan won't be able to put any fear of him, into you at any time. Remember thatGod is always on your side against the Devil. "As Jesus is, so are you in the world" (1 Jn.4:17).

It was in dreams that the Lord first encouraged me to believe in resisting Satan. I had dreams where I saw the devil running away from me. When I awoke in the night hours, I would resist Satan in Jesus' Name.

Such conflict with Satan and his evil spirits will also help you to grow in discernment to distinguish between what is truly Divine and what is counterfeit. That which is Divine will always be characterized by the Spirit of Christ - the spirit of honesty, humility, purity and love. Many are deceived because they think that all manifestations of power are from God. But many such supernatural manifestations are from Satan.

Be alert at all times to obey the little promptings of the Spirit - when He prompts you for example, to pray a quick prayer at some time, or to read a verse of Scripture, or to pray for someone, or to visit someone, or to speak to someone, or to apologize to someone, or to forgive someone, or to turn your eyes away from something evil, or to stop listening to evil conversation, or to leave the presence of your friends when the conversation is moving in an unedifying direction, or to be bold to introduce a new direction in the conversation etc., By obeying such promptings of the Spirit, you can learn to live in the Spirit.

The Importance of Discernment

As we approach the end of time there will be more and more of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church. Deceiving spirits also will operate more and more in the world. So you must watch out for the following, if you are to avoid being deceived:
(1) Emotional counterfeits, (2) Extremism, (3) Phariseeism, and (4) Cultistic attitudes.
The enemy always works where the Spirit works. So don't swallow everything that you see and hear. Be discerning.

Noise and emotion may accompany the moving of the Spirit - and that does help some people to be free from their human inhibitions and their fear of men. We don't devalue our emotions, for they are a God-given part of our personality. But at the same time, we must not overvalue them, for God sees the heart and not the emotions. It is good to raise your voice when you pray, because that will help you to be less conscious of others around you. That is just like your closing your eyes when you pray, so that you can concentrate better, and not be distracted by others around you. Such actions won't make your prayers more spiritual, but they help you to be free from your surroundings. The power of the Holy Spirit is not manifested by shouting, but by a holy life, a powerful ministry in the church, and an unashamed witness for the Lord in your place of work.

There is tremendous power in the human soul (intellectual power, emotional power and will-power). And many exploit this (as in yoga) and imagine it to be the Spirit's power. You must not be deceived by such power. The Holy Spirit will always glorify Christ - not men or experiences. So that is one sure way by which you can detect counterfeits.

Discipline

" God has not given us the spirit of timidity but of power, love and discipline " (2 Tim.1:7). The Holy Spirit will eliminate all fear and timidity from your life and replace this with power, love and discipline.

No one can become truly spiritual, without discipline. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal.5:23). An undisciplined life is like a leaky vessel. No matter how many times it is filled, it will become empty again. It will have to be filled repeatedly. Three areas in which you must seek to be more and more disciplined are: In the use of (1) your body, (2) your time, and (3) your money.

Romans 8:13 states that we must put the deeds of the body to death through the Spirit. These are not deeds done from the heart - for such deeds would be deliberate sins. These are deeds that come forth from the body, because we allow the body to be undisciplined - for example, in the areas of overeating, oversleeping, laziness, or talkativeness etc., The Holy Spirit wants to help us control our tongue especially.

Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the most of our time. So much of time that is wasted can be saved and used to study the Scriptures, if you are disciplined. I don't mean that you should not relax or play games, etc. You must not become an ascetic, for asceticism will bring you into bondage. But consider where you can "gather up the fragments" of time, as the disciples gathered up the fragments of the loaves, so that "nothing is lost" (John 6:12). Be disciplined to make the most of your time, but don't become a fanatic about it! Relax.

In Luke 16:11, Jesus said that God would not give true spiritual riches to those who were unfaithful with money. To be righteous with money is the first step - no cheating, clear all debts, etc. The next step is to be faithful - avoid wastage, extravagant living, useless luxuries, and all unnecessary expenditure. Remember that the ones who get God's best in the Christian life are those who allow the Holy Spirit to discipline their lives.

Devotion to Jesus

The Spirit has come into your heart - not to give you experiences, but to glorify Jesus. So allow Him to draw you into a greater devotion to the Lord, and to show you the glory of Jesus more and more. The Spirit seeks to fill your heart with the love of Jesus (a love that gave itself to save those who hated Him) so that you can love all of God's people (Rom.5:5).

Preserve yourself always in the simplicity of devotion to Jesus (2 Cor.11:3). This is the most important thing in the Christian life. Don't ever get so complicated in your mind, thinking about various doctrines and their explanations, that you lose your simple love for the Lord.

When you are devoted to Jesus you will be devoted to the members of His Body in your local church as well. The Holy Spirit is not narrow-minded like some of God's children are, and He doesn't split hairs over peripheral doctrines, like some of them do! He sees the heart and not a person's theological understanding. And wherever He sees sincere hearts, He works, even if their understanding of doctrine is imperfect. Peter recognized this when he went to Cornelius's house, and said; "God doesn't show partiality, but receives all those who fear Him and who do what is right" (Acts 10:34, 35). You must always be as large-hearted as the Holy Spirit is - towards all those who are genuinely God's people in every group.

The Danger of Being Exclusive

Beware of exclusivism. Never cut off any of God's children from your fellowship. This is what many cultistically-minded believers are doing today. Nehemiah built the walls of Jerusalem to protect the city from being attacked by enemies - but not to exclude any of the genuine sons of Israel from entering the city. Satan and the world are what we must keep outside those walls, not the children of God who happen to disagree with us! We may not be able to work with some believers, because of differences in doctrine etc. But we can fellowship with all believers.

In Zechariah 2:4, 5 God says that Jerusalem will be built"without any walls", because God Himself will be "a wall of fire" around the city. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit that constitutes the church's protecting wall today. If we allow this fire to burn in the church, the Holy Spirit will keep it pure from all worldly influences. If God Himself is going to be a wall of fire around us, then it is foolish for us to build another " wall of rules and regulations", in order to keep our group pure!! Such man-made walls always lead to exclusivism, Phariseeism and cultism (however apparently `Scriptural' the names given to these walls may be). Beware of being influenced by such extremists. Our duty is to proclaim the narrow gate of discipleship, as narrow as Jesus made it - but not more narrow!

Even if other believers shut you out from their exclusive fellowship, you must still love them and be open and large-hearted towards them. As this poem of Edwin Markham says:

"They drew a circle that shut me out -
`Heretic', `Rebel' - a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win -

We drew a circle that took them in!!"

That's the way to win - the way of love.

When you know that you have been forgiven much, you will love the Lord much (Lk.7:47). And you will love other believers too, even if they hold different views from you.

Chapter 4
Chapter 4

The Lord Alone in Front of Us

It is written about Jesus that He kept His Father always before Him, and therefore His heart was always glad. He had " fullness of joy", and the Father was always at Jesus' right hand to support Him (Acts 2:25, 26, quoting Psa.16:10,11). So keep the Lord in front of you at all times and then fullness of joy will be your constant portion, and the Lord will be at your right hand to support you always. So don't allow people or circumstances to come between you and the Lord.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God (Matt.5:8) - and they will see only God in all situations, and not people and circumstances. When you are gripped by the beauty of Jesus, the pull of temptation will become less strong. And when you see people and circumstances through the Lord, you will be "at rest" in the assurance that God will work in all those circumstances and through all those people, for your very best (Rom.8:28). You must develop the habit of being at rest in all situations, in the little trials of daily life that come to you now, so that you can overcome the greater ones that will come in the future.

Never idolize any man or any man's writings. Truly godly men and truly spiritual books will always point you to Jesus (The Living Word) and to the Bible (The Written Word). Follow only such men and read only such books.

God's Sovereignty

The greatest manifestation of God's power was not in creation but in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, when Satan was defeated (Eph.1:19, 20). The crucifixion of Jesus was the worst evil ever committed in man's history. It was also the very best thing that ever happened on this earth. If God is powerful enough to convert the worst event of history into the very best, then you can be certain that He will turn everything that happens in your life also into something glorious for you (Rom.8:28).

God prefers to work in an unseen way, without pomp or show or trumpet blast. As a result, you may imagine at times, that some things happened by coincidence or by chance, when actually they were specific answers to prayer - your own prayers and the prayers of others who were praying for you. "He is a God Who hides Himself" in the way He works (Isa.45:15). " How impossible it is for us to understand His methods" (Rom.11:33 - Living).

Do the best you can - and leave the rest to God. He will sovereignly overrule in every matter that concerns you. Even your mistakes and failures will be turned to spiritual profit by the Lord. This is the God we worship - One Who rules over all matters on this earth. So you don't have to live in regret over any mistakes you may have made. Don't let Satan rob you of your joy by such regret. God is so Sovereign that He makes even our mistakes to work for His glory and for our good. The only thing that you need ever sorrow over is pride and unconfessed sin. Satan however will keep reminding you about your past mistakes - to knock you down with discouragement. But if you keep getting discouraged over your past failures, it will be easier for Satan to trip you up again.

When the waves are in turmoil, it is important that your vision is fixed on Jesus Himself, and not on the waves around you, as Peter did (Matt.14:30). There may be turmoil in your place of work or around you. But if you look at Jesus alone, you will walk in triumph over the troubled sea.

Protection from Dangers

Jesus faced wild beasts after He was anointed with the Spirit (Mark 1:13) and then wild men (Luke 4:13-16, 28-30). But none of them could kill Him, because God's hour had not yet come for Him. We read that in John 7:30 also. That is an amazing verse that is true for us also, because God loves us as much as He loved Jesus - John 17:23.

Dangers that God saves you from are an indication of God's protecting care over your life - which you may otherwise tend to forget. There is a " hedge around you" (Job 1:10-12), which Satan cannot get through, until God permits Him to do so. Greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world (1 Jn.4:4). Events in your past life, when you were saved from death, will help you to recognize that you owe your life to God totally. So it is good for you to remember such instances, so that you recognize your debt to Him.

Paul faced "death again and again and again" (2 Cor.11:23-Living), and experienced God's mighty delivering hand again and again and again. That is how he became the mighty apostle that he became. He describes in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, how he was afloat in the sea for 24 hours once, shipwrecked thrice, and often faced with dangers from robbers etc. You will face only a small part of what Paul faced. But God will prepare you through all those trials for a ministry for Him in the days to come.

Unbelief can limit God from doing miracles for you, in the different situations that you face. Galatians 3:5 (Living) states, " Does God give you the power of the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you as a result of your trying to obey the Law? No, of course not. It is when you believe in Christ and fully trust Him ."

The promise of God in Isaiah 54:17 is that no weapon formed against you will ever prosper. That is something you can claim. God Himself will vindicate and justify you in all situations (Rom.8:33). It is only when you recognize your own weakness that you can be really strong. Jesus was crucified because He chose to be weak (See 2 Cor.12:9 and 13:4). As we sing in a hymn:

"Make me a captive, Lord and then I shall be free;

Force me to render up my sword and I shall conqueror be."

Praising God for Everything

Life will become wretched for you, if you constantly keep feeling that you are not good enough to be accepted by God. You must never moan like that, but instead thank God that He has accepted you just as you are - in Christ. Thank and praise the Lord every time you think of all that God has taken you through. All thoughts of complaining and grumbling must be equated with dirty, sexual thoughts - to be avoided completely.

Nothing coming from outside you can ever contaminate you if your `elimination system' is working properly (Mark 7:18-23). You have to develop the habit of being blind and deaf to many external things (Isa.42:19, 20). All that you see and hear must be sorted out in your mind first. Many of those things must be eliminated from your mind immediately - for example, the evils that others have done to you, anxious thoughts about the future etc. Only then will you be able to remain at rest in all circumstances and praise the Lord.

Jesus has come to give us the spirit of praise and gladness (Isa.61:1-3). He Himself sang a hymn before going to Calvary (Matt.26:30). And He is now the song-leader in the church (Heb.2:12). When we praise God, we make a throne for Him in our hearts (Psa.22:3). The proof of our faith is that we sing His praise (Psa.106:12). Thus you prove that you believe that God sits on the throne of the universe and that all the things that are happening in your life are with His express permission. (" He knows every detail of what is happening to me" - Job 23:10 Living). The most absolute statement about the sovereignty of God in the Bible was made by Nebuchadnezzar after he was disciplined by God. He said, " God looks on the people of the earth as nothing. Angels in heaven and people on earth are all under his control. No-one can oppose his will or question what he does " (Dan.4:35-Good News Bible). That is when Nebuchadnezzar "became sane" (Dan.4:36). And that is what every sane believer will believe. That is the faith God wants us to have. Such believers will be praising God at all times and in every situation.

When the scribes and rulers complained that the infants were making a lot of noise shouting praises in the temple, Jesus said that praise was actually perfectly offered only by babes (Matt.21:16, quoting Psalm 8:2 - " You have taught the little children to praise You perfectly" - Living Bible). That teaches us that what makes our praise acceptable to God are not the words we use, but humility and purity of heart (for those are what all babes have). Babes also never murmur or complain - and that is another thing that makes our praise acceptable to God. When there is not even a smell of a murmur or complaint in our lives, morning, noon or night, seven days of the week, every week of every year, then our praise is no longer a ritual performed on Sunday mornings, but part of our daily lives. And God is delighted with such praise - even if we sing out of tune!!

The New Covenant

Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees if we are to enter God's kingdom (Mt.5:20) - and that relates especially to keeping the 10th commandment. The righteousness of the Pharisees involved keeping the first 9 of the 10 commandments. Paul says in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless as far as these 9 were concerned.

But when it came to the 10th commandment, " You shall not covet (lust)", Paul says in Romans 7:7 he could not keep it. He found coveting (lusting) of every kind in his heart. He longed for deliverance (Rom.7:24). But he found it impossible to keep his heart from the sin of lusting. He knew that in the new covenant, God desired purity of heart. He did not have that purity, but longed for it. God saw Paul's hunger and opened his eyes to see the way that had been made under the new covenant, for him to have a pure heart that would be free from such lusts.

This is what Paul describes in Romans 8. There he speaks of the provision that God has made for us. Through the Holy Spirit, He gives us the life of Christ (v.2), so that the requirement of the law (which is, "You shalllove" (Rom.13:9, 10) - the positive side of "You shall not lust") can be fulfilled inside us now (Rom.8:4). If we have the same honesty and hunger that Paul had, God will lead us also into the same life that he experienced - for there is no partiality with God.

Here is an illustration of the difference between the law and the gospel: A man can take a pig for a walk through a filthy street, and keep it from wallowing in the muck, by holding it firmly with a strong chain round its neck. This is what it means to be "under law" - where we are kept clean by the restraint of the commandments - the fear of judgment and the hope of reward. But now God does for us what the Law could not do. He puts a cat's nature within the pig. And this new nature wants to remain clean at all times and no longer desires the filth. So the chain (the law) is no longer necessary. This is God's way of making us righteous - not by restraining us from the outside with a chain of commandments, but by making us inwardly partake of His nature that delights in holiness.

Victory over Sin

Seek wholeheartedly for total victory over conscious sin (what you know to be sin) - no matter how long that may take you. God will definitely give it to you. If you mourn each time you fall into any sin, that indicates to God that you are really thirsting for a life of victory over sin. Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that you will automatically get victory over sin. The battle for victory has to be fought by taking up the cross daily, and by filling your mind with God's Word. The Holy Spirit helps us in these two matters.

Getting victory over sin, testifying in the meetings, and witnessing to your colleagues, etc., are all similar to learning how to swim. The early stage is the most difficult. Afterwards you will find that you enjoy doing them. So in all these matters, don't hesitate to " jump into the water". You won't drown. That is how you will learn "to swim". If you keep hesitating, you will find that you get more and more scared of the "water" (people). Ask God to free you from the fear of men. This is one of the greatest freedoms that we all need.

Temptations and mistakes will be a constant part of your life until the end of your life. But you can come to victory over conscious sin, after a while - and then falling will become rare thereafter.

The greatest lust that you must conquer (as with all young men) is sexual lust. That stands like a Goliath before all men and says, " If I conquer you, you will serve us Philistines (all the lusts); but if you conquer me, then all of us will serve you " (1 Samuel 17:9). When David killed Goliath, through the power of God, all the Philistines ran away and were killed by the Israelites (1 Samuel 17:51,52). So also, you will find that when you conquer sexual lust, many of your other lusts become easy to conquer.

Flee from too close a friendship with any girl. Flee from literature (and in 2016, I would also add "Internet sites") that provokes and stimulates your lusts. Flee even from the waste of time that there is in watching useless TV programs. Flee from listening to gossip. Listening to evil, reading evil, and watching evil, will only make you knowledgeable about evil. But why do you need that filthy information? It will only pollute you and destroy you. You must shut your ears and your eyes, from now onwards, to all such information. To know the evil that others do, will never make you wise.

The Bible exhorts us to be "like infants, in matters of evil" (1 Cor.14:20). The mind of a child is pure from all evil. And the good news of the gospel is that even though we have spent so many years polluting our minds with evil information, if we really long to be free from it now, the Holy Spirit can help us to have the pure mind of a child once again. This is what the grace of God can do for us. Praise the Lord!

We are called to be "innocent concerning what is evil and wise in what is good" (Rom.16:19). So ask the Holy Spirit to show you how Jesus lived. Then you will know what it is to be " wise in what is good ".

Chapter 5
Chapter 5

Jesus was Tempted but Always Overcame

Remember that Jesus faced exactly the same temptations that we all face every day (Heb.4:15). He had all our limitations, and yet He overcame - because He loved righteousness and hated sin and cried out to the Father for help whenever He was tempted (Heb.1:9; 5:7). The Holy Spirit helped Jesus as a Man - and the Holy Spirit will help you also in the same way.

Think often of how Jesus faced temptation as a young man. He felt the pull of the same temptations that all young men face. Overcoming temptation was not any easier for Him. In fact, it must have been more difficult, for His nature was totally pure and so temptation was more repulsive to Him - and so its pull must have been stronger than it is for us. And yet He overcame.

And now Jesus is on your side of the rope in the tug of war against temptation - and He stands ready to help you. The anchor-man on the enemy's side is the big heavyweight called Pride. Next to him is another heavyweight called Selfishness. But God will help you to pull them both over, along with all the other sins - and you will overcome. Praise the Lord!

Here is a promise that you can hold on to in faith: " Jesus is able to keep you from falling (stumbling)" (Jude 24). Walking by faith has to be learnt just like physical walking. There will be a number of falls initially, as for a baby. But the falls will become less and less as you press on. Finally, falling will become rare, although a time will never come, when even the greatest saint can say that he will never fall.

When you fall, you may be tempted to call your fall by some other name than 'sin'. That is dangerous. There are many who call their sins as 'mistakes', 'blunders', etc., in order to evade personal responsibility for their sins. They even misquote Romans 7:17, " It is no longer I doing it, but sin that dwells in me....", in order to excuse their obvious sins. This is a dangerous way to go. Avoid it - because you will then live in self-deception, as those other people are living. If we confess our sins God will be faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). But there is no promise of cleansing if we call our sins "mistakes". The blood of Jesus cleanses onlysins. So, always be honest whenever you fall into sin. Call it " sin", turn from it, hate it, forsake it, confess it to God - and then forget about it, for it has been blotted out.

Some Sins are More Serious

Sins of attitude are more serious than sins of action, because they are less easily recognized. Here are some sins of attitude: pride, critical attitudes, bitterness, jealousy, inward judgment of others (by what you have heard or seen - Isa.11:3), seeking your own, selfishness, Phariseeism, etc.

If a believer who preaches victory over sin, looks down on others, he doesn't realize that he does not have victory over the greatest sin of all - spiritual pride. To despise others is the equivalent of constantly committing adultery. And for such a believer to be talking about victory over sin is ridiculous! The more you grow spiritually, the more holy you become, and the more victory over sin you get, the more humble you will become. This is the primary proof of genuine holiness. In a fruit tree, the branches with the most fruit bow down the most!

Many confuse human self-control for 'partaking of the Divine nature'. Human self-control can produce an outward reformation. But it will leave the inner man haughty and proud and Pharisaical in its attitude. We are called to receive grace from God to overcome sin - and we can never be proud of what we received freely. We can be proud only of what we produced ourselves - and the holiness we produce by our own efforts will always be a false holiness.

The Divine nature that you are called to partake of is love. God is kind and good to unthankful and evil people, and makes the sun to shine on the evil and the good alike (Matt.5:46-48). This is the example that you must follow too. Love everyone - whether they agree with you or not. Avoid all controversial discussions and arguments - like you would avoid a deadly disease. If others around you want to argue about something, tell them lovingly that you would like to avoid all controversy. Pursue after being made perfect in love with all your heart.

The Way to Overcome

The fear of God is the foundation for a holy life. The secret of godliness lies in seeing that Jesus came in the flesh and was tempted like us in all points and overcame. But many know this truth only intellectually - and remain arrogant and proud. We can say that such people may have understood the doctrine of godliness, but not the secret of godliness (1 Tim.3:16). The secret is not in a doctrine but in a Person. Those who do not genuinely fear God will only understand the doctrine intellectually and have a "holiness which is an illusion" (Eph.4:22 - JB Phillips). " Holiness can be perfected only in the fear of God" (2 Cor.7:1).

And so, whenever there is the slightest unrest in your conscience about something or the other, settle the matter immediately. Confess the sin to God at once, even if it has been only a failure in your thoughts. Mourn, mourn and mourn over each failure. Apologise to whomever necessary. And you will then see how God strengthens you mightily. The best way to overcome temptation is to avoid it and flee from it - as Joseph did (Gen.39:7-12). Avoid all places and people that tempt you strongly and that make you weak. Jesus taught us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation".

Avoid, avoid, avoid. Flee, flee, flee. In eternity you will be thankful that you did that.

Even on earth, in a few years from now, you will be thankful that you avoided places and people that could have caused you to be tempted beyond your ability to overcome. Your avoiding such places and people is the way that you prove to the Lord that you are really eager to please Him alone. (Read Proverbs 7 in this connection. That is a good chapter for all young men to read every now and then).

These youthful years are a very important period of your life to lay a foundation for your future - and so the Lord must have His way with you totally in these years. Tell the Lord that you want that. Never mind how many times you fall. Get up, mourn, seek God for victory and give yourself wholly to the Lord all over again.

Persistence

Persistence, persistence, persistence.

That is the secret of victory. Keep at it - like you (as a computer student) keep working at a computer problem until it is solved. The temptation to be discouraged is universal; but don't give up. God made a perfect plan for your life before you were born (Psa.139:16). Don't let Satan ruin it. Whatever the cost, take a stand for the Lord.

Jesus said in John 14:30 that when the prince of the world came, he could find nothing in Him. We are now called to walk as Jesus walked. When Satan comes to you, he must find nothing in you. This is why you must " always do your best to maintain a conscience that is without offence towards God and towards men " (Acts 24:16). You must seek God with all your heart for His help to live without sinning consciously. Yielding to your lusts will give a foothold to Satan in your life. Romans 6:1 asks the question, "Shall we continue in sin?" Then Romans 6:15 asks the question, " Shall we sin even once?" To both questions the answer is a resounding, "No, may it never be."

If you do fall into sin, you must immediately mourn and seek for pardon; otherwise you will begin to take sin lightly, and then victory will become more and more difficult. So, you must learn to keep short accounts with God, confessing sin, and forsaking it and repenting from it, as soon as you are conscious of having come short of God's standards anywhere.

Unreality

Unreality is one of the greatest dangers in the pursuit of the life of victory. Because many don't face up to reality, they lose faith in the possibility of living victoriously and say, "It just doesn't work". But the promises of God do work - if you get your faith from God's Word and not from the sermons of unbelieving Christians. " Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ" (Rom.10:17) - and not from the testimonies of sinful men. Remember that!

At the same time, don't seek after unrealistic heights of holiness. Stick to the balance found in God's Word. Some soulish preachers can proclaim unattainable standards of holiness. Be careful that you are not deceived by them. You must ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment between soul-power and spiritual power. True spirituality is always manifested in humility, graciousness and love. Listen only to those preachers in whom you see these characteristics. There are followers of Jesus as well as followers of the Pharisees in the best of churches - and you must be discerning, so that you don't mingle with the wrong crowd. Don't judge them - but discern, and avoid them.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6

Humility and Rest

Humility should be your outstanding virtue as a disciple of Jesus. The best I have ever read on this subject is what Andrew Murray has written. In his book titled, Humility, he says, "The chief mark by which counterfeit holiness can be identified is by its lack of humility. There are three great motives that drive us to humility. First, the fact that we are created beings, second, that we are sinners and third, that we are saints. In most teaching on this subject, it is the fact that we are sinners that has been emphasised, so that many have thought that one must keep on sinning in order to remain humble. Others have thought that constantly judging oneself is the secret of humility. But it is not sin that humbles us most, but grace. It is the one who is occupied with God and His glory who will take the lowest place before Him, not the one who is occupied with his own sinfulness. Every failure in our life is caused by a lack of humility. In Jesus' earthly life, He constantly sought to be nothing, so that God might be everything. He gave up His will and His abilities entirely to the Father, so that the Father could work in Him. And because Jesus had humbled Himself before God thus, He found it easy to humble Himself before men too, and to be the servant of all. To deny ourselves means to acknowledge that Self has nothing good in it and so to become nothing before God and men, so that God alone may be everything."

Read that paragraph again. There is a wealth of meaning in it. Be rooted and grounded in humility at all times.

Always live in fear of becoming a Pharisee, and then you will never become one. Always esteem others as more important than yourself - not as more spiritual, but as more important (Read Phi.2:3 carefully). This does not mean that we should wallow in low self-esteem. No. We are sons of the living God - sons of the King of Kings - chosen by God from all eternity past. So we are extremely important to God. And we are not slaves to any man and will never live in fear of any man. But we respect all people.

The Lord wants your heart to be at rest at all times (Matt.11:28), even if your mind and body are active throughout the day. Unrest in the heart is very often due to narrowness of heart - towards God and towards others (2 Cor.6:11-13). To be large-hearted towards God is to give Him all that you have and are, for Him to use as it pleases Him (John 17:10). To be large-hearted towards people is to have a forgiving heart that quickly releases others, without holding any grudges. You must never, never hold a grudge against any human being at any time. Only if you are faithful in this matter will you be able to live in God's rest at all times.

Preserve a spirit of thankfulness in your life at all times (towards God and towards man). This will be easy if you are humble. It is pride and the silent, inward demands that we make on others that rob us of the spirit of thankfulness.

Meditate On God's Word

It is good to be rooted and grounded in God's Word, so that you are never deceived. In a few minutes every day, you can read something that will bless you as you meditate on it during the rest of the day. In addition, if you have the time, you should try and read 1 chapter of the New Testament (in the NASB) and 3 chapters of the Old Testament (in the Living Bible) every day. That way, you will able to finish reading the whole Bible in 300 days.

Remember that the very first recorded words of Jesus, after His anointing with the Spirit, were: " Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God " (Matt. 4:4). James 1:22-25 exhorts us to look intently into God's Word. The new covenant law is called there (a) the perfect law and (b) the law of liberty. Unlike the Law of Moses, the new covenant is meant to lead us to perfection and to liberty from all bondage -from bondage to sin and from bondage to people's opinions.

In your single days, you must make the most of every opportunity to study God's Word. You will never get such opportunities again. Seek to live a disciplined life, so that you can make the most of your time to study the Word of God. This is what I did in my single days - and it has brought me immense spiritual rewards throughout my life.

It is important that you go to the church-meetings with a positive attitude. Any negative attitude will block your ears from hearing what God wants to say to you. Satan is so subtle that he will try to bring something or the other to hinder you from receiving what God wants you to hear. The principle that Mary mentioned in Luke 1:53 is eternally true: " He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent away empty-handed ". So go to every church-meeting as a hungry, needy person, so that God will be able to fill you with good things.

God's Perfect Plan

There is nothing greater that you can accomplish on earth than to fulfil God's perfect plan for your life. My prayer is that God will one day use you as an instrument in His Hand to build His church in some part of the world through your life and labours. Your education is only a means of earning a living - so that you don't have to be dependent on others for your earthly needs. But your calling in life is to live for God. So don't make your profession an idol.

God has planned every detail of your earthly life already. That includes your education - the school and college that you were to join, and even the courses that you would take in college. He sovereignly overrules in all of these and ensures that you are finally guided into the right profession. So in some situation, if you didn't get the courses or the openings that you expected or wanted, despite your best efforts, just praise the Lord. Years later you will discover that God was watching over you and sovereignly overruling the details of your life (although you were unaware of it), and that the way it worked out for you was indeed God's best for you (Rom.8:28). Live by faith in this word of God.

God's main purpose for you is that you might be His witness - by manifesting the life of Jesus - here on earth. So don't let your ambitions ever become earthly. Take life seriously. Seek God's perfect will. Live life in such a way that, you won't regret the way you lived, when you finally stand before the Lord in the day of judgment. The GPA that will be important in that final day will not be your`Grade Point Average' (in college), but`God's Praise & Approval' (1 Cor.4:5). Your score in that will be the only thing that will matter then.

God plans our lives in such a wonderful way. This is what I have found again and again in my own life, which makes me want to give my life more wholeheartedly to His service in the coming days, " to win for the Lamb that was slain the reward of His sufferings". That was the motto of the 18th-century Moravian Christians (now Czechoslovakia), whose leader was Count Zinzendorf.

The perfect plan that God has for your life cannot be hindered by any lack of earthly qualifications. Its fulfilment depends only on your having a humble attitude of mind and faith. So may you always have those virtues.

None of us have managed to live our lives without making foolish mistakes. But I can testify from my own life that God overlooks many foolish things that we have done, when we are humble enough to acknowledge our sin, not blame others, and say in faith, "Lord, in spite of what I have done, I trust in Your mercy that You will fulfil Your plan for my life". Many believers never say those words to the Lord because they are so discouraged by their failures, and don't trust in God's mercy. Thus they dishonour God by exalting their failures over His sovereign power and mercy. You must trust in God and glorify His great mercy. Then it will go really well with you - with each year being better than the previous one.

Dealing with Misunderstanding

Whenever you face misunderstanding or suspicion, you should rejoice that the Lord has counted you worthy at such a young age to face such things and to get a spiritual education through them. You have to learn to be large-hearted towards those who view you with suspicion. In such situations, you have the opportunity to complete another subject in the syllabus that God has planned for you. You can then grow in Divine love for those who look at you in that way.

You must also develop a thick skin towards misunderstanding and reproach. You don't realize perhaps how such situations can enable you, not only to grow in a personal knowledge of the Lord, but also to be free from the opinions of men. This is what I have found - and so I now know what it is to "leap for joy", as Jesus said (Lk.6:23).

You have to be deaf to many things that you hear around you, as it says about the Lord's servants in Isaiah 42:19, 20. Remember that you are answerable only to the Lord finally for your life and for your attitudes. Only if you realize this fact can you be a true servant of Christ. If you seek to please men, you can never be a servant of Christ (Gal.1:10). Many young people are bound by the opinions of others. Be free from this slavery, or you will never grow as you should.

Don't be a clone - who imitates others (whether in the world or in the church) - behaving and speaking and praying like them, because you want their honour and their approval. Dare to be yourself. God wants you to be your natural self at all times. He never wants you to be artificial. In every Christian group, you will find pressure from others to conform to their pattern. It is good that you face such pressures, for only then can you resist that pressure and develop your spiritual muscles and be an overcomer.

In Communist countries, the children of Christian leaders are persecuted and hounded in school and elsewhere. What you face from others will only be like ant-bites in comparison to that. Be bold and fearless then, and be an overcomer even in this area. Everything is planned by God for your very best, to give you an eternal education - to make you a man of God.

"Take heed to the ministry that you have received in the Lord, that you fulfil it." (Col.4:17).

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

Becoming a Blessing to Others

In Matthew 14:19, we see the three steps to becoming a blessing to others: (1) Jesus took ALL the loaves and fish; (2) He blessed them; and (3) He broke them. Then the multitude was fed. This is how the Lord wants to make you a blessing to others too. You have to give Him everything first, as the little lad there did. Then He will bless you with the power of the Holy Spirit. Then He will break you through many trials, frustrations, disappointed hopes, failures, sicknesses, betrayals, etc, and humble you, and reduce you to nothing in the eyes of men. Then, He will bless others through you. So submit to His breaking. The Bible says that Jesus was first crushed and then the Father's work prospered in His hand (See Isa.53:10-12).

Jesus allowed His human self-will to be broken in the different situations in His life. Only thus was He able to offer Himself without spot to His Father. It was for this purpose that the Spirit strengthened Him (Heb.9:14). It is only as you also allow the Holy Spirit to break the strength of your own will that you will become spiritual. Your self-will must be broken at the times when you are tempted to do what your own strong self-life would like to do, instead of doing what God wants you to do.

Your cross will be found in those places where the will of God crosses your self-will. There your own will must be crucified. There the Spirit will tell you to die. If you obey the Spirit's voice consistently, you will remain constantly broken; and God has promised to give continuous revival to those who remain continuously broken in spirit. The Lord says, " I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite ." (Isa.57:15).

It is good to remain at all times with a sense of your own need - "poor in spirit". But you must also believe that God mightily rewards all who diligently seek Him. All the value of being poor in spirit will be worthless, if you don't also believe that God will bless you and fill you with His power.

Seek fellowship with the poor and the weak, in every church, and encourage them. Talk to the children and encourage them, because most people neglect the children. Always seek for the low, unnoticed place, and for the unseen ministries in a church. Don't ever seek prominence in any church, and don't seek to impress anyone in any way, with your gifts or your talents. Beware especially of trying to impress the young sisters! But be bold always to testify in every meeting, and to serve in every way possible in the church - whether cleaning the floor or playing the piano. Don't ever get into any competition with anyone, for any ministry. God Himself will open up the ministry that He has planned for you, at the right time, if you are faithful.

You need to be very wise when trying to help any young person who has had a history of alcoholism or drugs. Seek God for wisdom in such cases, as to how you can help them - and God will give you the wisdom you need readily (Jas.1:5). In fact, he has promised to give you " as much wisdom as you need" to help such people (See Luke 11:5-8).

Your Calling

There are very, very few people in the world who are God's children. By God's grace, you happen to be among those very, very few. How grateful you should be that God allowed you to hear the gospel from your childhood. You have a heavenly birthright. Don't ever give it up for anything of this evil world. If you admire anything that is great and grand in this world, you will end up bowing down to it. Jesus too was tempted in the wilderness to bow down to Satan to get the glory of this world. But He overcame. And you can overcome too. I believe you will be an overcomer.

When you overcome in the times of temptation, you prove to Satan that the Lord is more precious to you than any lust. God is trusting you for such a testimony, for He has very few witnesses to this truth on earth.

There is a calling of God upon your life. I pray that the Lord will prepare you even now to be His servant in the days to come. So keep your life pure, and seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit always. Discipline your time and your life, and don't waste your money. Remember that you cannot allow your days to go to waste like many other young people of your age do, who have no calling of God upon their lives.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, so that you can have a glorious life and ministry here on earth and an abundant entrance into His kingdom one day. May you enter His presence with joy on that final day. That is my constant prayer for you.

Controversy and Competition

Love all men. But be free from all men, at the same time. That is the way to spiritual growth. Steer clear of all discussions on controversial subjects. Steer around them, as you would around the potholes on the roads in India. Otherwise those potholes can give you a nasty jolt. God wants you to keep a watch over your tongue. Much leakage of power takes place through the tongue. Ask God to continually fill you with the Spirit every day - and then make sure there is no leakage!

Be steadfast in refusing to discuss matters relating to other churches in other places. A person has to have extremely high thoughts to consider himself capable of passing a judgment on things happening in other churches. The events that take place in different churches have a way of exposing the curiosity of people and thus making " the evil thoughts of their hearts manifest" (Lk.2:34, 35). Thus God tests all His children to see how many of them have learnt to mind their own business. Make sure you pass the test. Keep your heart free from unnecessary opinions. Pious gossip is often passed around in many Christian circles, under the guise of prayer-requests. Avoid all such gossip.

As young men, it is good for you all to recognize your boundaries. What may be proper for an elder brother to discuss may not be proper for you - for you may not have the wisdom to talk about it in the right way. You should certainly hold firmly to your convictions, never compromise, and never allow anyone to brainwash you. But you should also pursue peace and seek fellowship in all humility, as far as possible. It is that delicate balance that sometimes youthful zeal is not able to maintain. But you must strive to find that balance.

Respect the brothers and sisters in every church that you go to. Don't ever despise anyone; and don't ever get into arguments with anyone - for that will only destroy you. Receive what is good from every believer and from every church that you fellowship with. But be discerning always. " Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Let me repeat: Don't swallow everything that you see and hear, without evaluating everything by the Word of God. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

Conscience and Righteousness

You will never know how much we appreciate you as our sons, for so many things that I can think of right now - and many more things that I can think of, if I give the matter a little more thought!

I have an important exhortation for you first of all: "Live in the fear of the Lord the whole day long" - (Pro. 23:17).

Never forget that Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, if we are to enter God's kingdom (Matt.5:20). Immediately after that verse, Jesus explained what he meant: He said that we should not be angry (5:22), or lust after women (5:28), or be untruthful (5:37), or revengeful (5:38-44), or seek the honour of men (Mt.6:1-18), etc. In other words, He was saying that our inner life must correspond with our outer life. The Law could not enable anyone to live like this. But Jesus has now opened a way for us to be able to live like this. This is what you must strive for with all your heart, and you must ask God to help you. And He will help you, because He is a Rewarder of all who diligently seek Him.

To lose a sensitive conscience is like losing sensitivity in the skin when contracting leprosy. This is a very serious thing. It will tend to spread and finally destroy you altogether. So you must break your connection with anyone who is dragging you away from the Lord. In your contacts with worldly people and carnal believers, you are engaged in a tug-of-war. If you find that they are gradually pulling you over to the world, through your contact with them, and you don't have the power to pull them over to the Lord, then drop such friendships immediately. Hold on to them only if you are gradually pulling them over towards the Lord. Otherwise, your loss will be very great finally.

The Crown of Life

James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under (keeps overcoming in) temptation - because when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him ". According to this verse, the one who gets the crown of life is one who loves the Lord, and is also consistently faithful in temptation. So, only those who are consistently faithful in temptation can say that they love the Lord.

So, it is in the moments of temptation that your love for the Lord is tested. We also read there that we will get the crown of life only when we are approved. Since no man has got the crown of life as yet, we can be sure that God's approval is not given to anyone until He has finished his life's course faithfully. So we are all under probation, and we will be so, until the end of our life. It is easy to be enthusiastic for a short while and then to backslide or to become lukewarm.

Be faithful day by day. And keep crying out for help. Even if you can't cry aloud to the Lord in your room, let there be a cry in your heart at all times. To be continually filled with the Spirit, you must keep a clear conscience always and humble yourself in every situation.

We must never call down judgment (fire from heaven) on those who disagree with us. When James and John once suggested that, Jesus rebuked them saying, " You don't know what spirit you have - for the Son of Man has not come to destroy men's lives but to save them " (Luke 9:51-56 - KJV, and margin of NASB). The spirit that hopes that it will go badly with those who disagree with us is the spirit of Satan.

Read that passage - Luke 9:49 to 56. You see there that the first group of people disagreed with the disciples (they had a different ministry). The second group did not receive Jesus and His disciples. Meditate on how Jesus rebuked His disciples for their wrong spirit - and you will be saved from the wrong spirit that there is among many carnal believers in Christendom today. Always ask yourself, "Am I seeking to save someone here or to destroy him?"

God gave Adam only one commandment. He disobeyed that. God gives children only one commandment - " Honour (i.e. obey and respect) your parents" - and they disobey that. Jesus gave His disciples only one commandment - to love one another exactly as he loved us - and most Christians disobey that!!!

It is only when we love others that we prove that we really love the Lord. Otherwise, John says that we are liars (1 Jn.4:20).

Concerning Satan

It is good for you to know some facts about Satan. In any battle, a good knowledge of the enemy and of his tactics makes the battle easier to win. Here are some important facts about the enemy of our souls:

(1) Origin of Satan: The highest of the angels became proud of his beauty, intelligence and position, and was dissatisfied with the boundaries and limits that God had drawn around him, and rebelled against the authority of God and thus became Satan (Isa.14:12-15; Ezek.28:12-19).

(2) Deception of Satan: He deceived Eve, by making her question God's Word, and doubt God's love, and finally destroyed her and made her destroy her husband too (Gen.3:4-7). Beware of the smooth speech of the gliding, attractive serpent.

(3) Methods of Satan: Satan tempted Jesus (i) to give more importance to his bodily needs (bread) than to God's Word, (ii) to do something spectacular in the name of God to get honour, and finally (iii) offered Him all the glory of the world if he would bow the knee to Satan. Satan offers us also many of the things of this world, if we will only compromise our convictions (Matt.4:1-10).

(4) Defeat of Satan: He has been rendered powerless through Jesus' death on the cross, and now he will flee from us if we resist him in Jesus' Name (Heb.2:14; Col.2:15; James 4:7).

(5) Why God hasn't destroyed Satan: Because God wants to use Satan to test us and thus strengthen our spiritual muscles, as in the case of Job (Job Chapters 1 and 2).

So we see that Satan's testing of the churches and of believers, is all part of God's perfect plan. When we are tempted to sin, or when Satan tries to deceive us, if we live in the fear of God, and hate sin radically, God will make us wise, giving us discernment between good and evil. Thus we will grow in wisdom and become both holy and wise, as God wants us to be.

Chapter 8
Chapter 8

Freedom from the Opinions of Men

One of the things I have discovered is that Christian growth is to a large extent dependent on being free from the opinions of other people.

The chapter in the New Testament that speaks of " entering into God's rest" (Hebrews 4) is also the one that has this important phrase in it: " All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do " (v.13). There is no way we can enter God's rest, unless we learn to live only before the face of "the One with Whom we have to so" in the final analysis. If you can break free from the opinions of men at this young age - and yet never despise or feel superior to anyone, then you will really do well.

Things around us are going to crumble - in every denomination of Christianity. In that day, you should be able to stand strong in the Lord. So get prepared for that now. All the opposition that I have faced, from religious Christians, has only freed me even more from the opinions of all men. And I have never had so much rest and peace in God as I have had in these past few years! I long that you will have the same rest and peace.

Once we have seen the great "mystery of godliness" - that Jesus came in the flesh and was tempted like us but did not sin (Heb.4:15; 1 Tim.3:16) - we have to be careful that we don't get so taken with explaining that doctrine that we miss out on actually living as Jesus lived in our daily life and partaking of His life. As the old saying goes, " We can miss the wood (forest) for the trees". In other words, we can get so taken up with the minute details that we miss the main thing.

We see many today who have preached holiness for years, but blaming one another and having complaints against each other. This shows that they were not walking the way of the cross all these years at all. They had only known the theory of it.

Redeeming the Time

Time that is lost in carelessness and sin can never be recovered. God can forgive us a wasted life and still take us into His kingdom. But even God cannot give us back our wasted years. Time wasted is time lost forever. It can never be recovered. That is why it is so good to start following the Lord from your youth itself. Our life on earth is very short. So it is essential that you redeem the time, and make use of every opportunity you get to overcome temptation, and to do good to all. Be rooted in humility, purity and love, at any cost.

One of these days, when Jesus returns, and we see Him face to face, you should not have any regret over the way you lived after God gave you light. When many believers see Jesus and discover in that day how much He loved them, they will be crushed with sorrow and regret, that they were so half-hearted during their earthly lifetime, even though they enter heaven. May God save you from such regret. Now is the time to think about that and to be wise. Never sell your birthright (spiritual blessing) for a bowl of porridge (pleasure for the body), like Esau did. " Pursue peace with all men and sanctification, without which no-one will see the Lord " (Heb.12:14).

"By and by, when we look on His face, we'll wish we had given Him more....."

Fear of God

We read that Jesus grew in wisdom from His childhood (Lk.2:40, 52). Even though we expect young people to do foolish things, because they are young, yet Jesus never did anything foolish, when he was young. Make Him your example therefore, and you will be saved from doing many foolish things in your youthful days. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Jesus' prayed for help to be saved from spiritual death - and He " was heard because of His godly fear" (Heb.5:7- KJV). God loves us as He loved Jesus. So your prayers also will be heard, if you fear God as Jesus did.

God gave Abraham a certificate (in Genesis 22:12) saying, " Now I know you are a fearer of God", when he was ready to sacrifice his only son. Abraham obeyed God all by himself on that mountain-top that day. He wanted God alone to see His obedience. God had spoken to Abraham one night, when he was alone (Gen.22:1). No-one else knew what God had told him. And Abraham obeyed God in secret. It is in the things that you do in secret (where no-one else knows what you do) that you will discover whether you fear God or not.

God gave Job a certificate (Job 1:8) before Satan, that Job feared God. It is good if God can boast about you also to Satan like that - since Satan goes roaming around the world even today, and knows all about everyone's private life. Job made a covenant with his eyes never to look with lust on a woman (Job 31:1). It is amazing that someone who lived even before the Law was given, and centuries before the new covenant was established, could make such a decision, without a Bible, without the Holy Spirit, and without other brothers to encourage or challenge him! Job will rise up in the day of judgment and condemn this generation for its lustfulness and its sin.

Joseph is another great example for you to follow. He was a young man living far away from his parents. And yet when he was tempted by a sinful woman day after day, he resisted her constantly and ran away from her, because he feared God (Gen.39:9).

The examples of Job and Joseph show us that the fear of God alone is sufficient to keep us from this terrible sin of sexual lust and adultery . The fear of the Lord is the alphabet (ABC) of wisdom.

If you "take heed to yourself", then "your progress will become evident for all to see" (1 Tim. 4:15, 16).

We are to offer to God a sacrifice of praise (Heb.13:15). Our praise of God becomes a sacrifice, when we give Him thanks in difficult circumstances. The `good news' of the gospel is that " Your God reigns" (compare Isa. 52:7 with Rom. 10:15). And we can give God thanks in all circumstances, because He is always reigning, no matter what may be happening to us.

If the last days are going to be like the days of Noah (as Jesus said in Matt.24), then God must have men like Noah also in these last days too, who take a stand against sin and unrighteousness and who stand true and pure for God in this evil time.

You must continually fight the battle in the sexual area, until you come to total purity. There can be impurity even in the way you speak to a girl that can defile you. You must press on to be as pure as Jesus was in this area. It is written that the disciples were surprised when they saw Jesus once talking to a woman (Jn.4:27). That was His testimony. If you are light-hearted and frivolous in your conversation with girls, you cannot expect to win in the sexual area. So be careful.

Going the Way Jesus Went

The "end of your life must be better than your beginning" (Eccl.7:8). We all began our life as innocent babies. To end up as better than that means not only being innocent as babies, but also being wise in understanding (1 Cor.14:20). But to get there you must be faithful in temptation. Wisdom in all matters is the goal that you must pursue wholeheartedly.

On the cross, a number of things happened:
(1) Jesus took the punishment for our sins (1 Cor.15:3).
(2) Our old man (the strong 'I') was put to death. Therefore we consider it as dead every day and follow Jesus (Rom.6:6,11).
(3) The world was put to death, so that money and all the glory of the world is something that we are detached from (Gal.6:14).
(4) Satan was defeated, so that he can never harm us again. And we are no longer afraid of him or anything that he can do to us (Col.2:14, 15; Heb.2:14).
(5) Jesus became a curse for us there, so that we might never again be under the curse of the Law, but be blessed by God (Gal.3:13,14).

Many will be offended and fall away in the last days, because they are not gripped by the way that Jesus went. You must be gripped by the truth of Jesus humbling Himself (coming down from the place of equality with God and becoming a servant of all men) if you are to endure unto the end. If you keep your face in the dust before the Lord always (as John did on Patmos - Rev.1:17), then you will end your life triumphantly.

Increasing in the Virtues of Christ

The only way to preserve ourselves from backsliding is by constantly pressing on and increasing in the virtues of Christ (See 2 Pet.1:5-10).

I want to encourage you to have frequent "full-dress rehearsals" of the Judgment-seat of Christ. In other words, present yourself before the Lord frequently and ask Him to judge you now. The promise is that " If we judge ourselves rightly, we will not be judged" (1 Cor.11:31). So ask yourself the type of questions that you think Jesus will ask you on judgment-day. He certainly won't be checking your doctrinal accuracy on that day! He will however ask you whether you fought against pride and selfishness and the love of money and dirty thoughts and whether you sought to love others. So concentrate on the subjects that are in the syllabus for the final examination, and don't waste your time on other subjects!

Jesus was both a Lion and a Lamb (Rev.5:5, 6). When it came to matters related to God's glory and the purity of God's house, He was like a fierce lion - as when He drove out the moneychangers in the temple, and when He rebuked the Pharisees who were exploiting the poor in the name of religion. But when it came to matters relating to Himself (when people spat on him and called him the prince of demons and falsely accused him), He was like a lamb - silent. This is the example for us to follow. Most believers however, are exactly the opposite - they are like lambs when God's Name is dishonoured and when there is compromise in the church, but they are like lions when anyone irritates them or insults them. This is why we need to be converted - turned around, RIGHT SIDE UP!

Chapter 9
Chapter 9

Conscience and Faith

The fruit of righteousness is always sown in peace (Jas.3:18). If you don't have peace and rest in your hearts then you cannot sow any seed that will produce righteousness. This is why any unrest that comes into our hearts is always an indication that something is wrong - perhaps some unconfessed sin, or a wrong attitude towards someone, or some anxiety about an earthly matter. Then you must seek God immediately; refuse to live by your feelings, put your will on God's side, confess your sin, forgive whomever you have to forgive, commit the cause of your anxiety to God, and come to rest. You must never allow any unrest to remain in your heart at any time.

Remember that "the anger of man will never accomplish the righteousness of God" (Jas.1:20).

A good conscience and a sincere faith are the two buoys that mark the two sides of the safe channel in which the ship of your life should go. Those who ignore either of these buoys make shipwreck of their lives (1 Tim.1:19, 20).

So be careful to preserve the sensitivity of your conscience, at all times. Whenever your conscience is disturbed, you can be sure that you have left the safe channel and are in dangerous waters. If you keep going that way, ignoring the warning-bells of conscience, you will be in great danger of shipwrecking your life. So be very, very careful in this matter.

Faith is the other buoy that shows the safe channel. Faith is the total leaning of our personality on God, in absolute confidence in His unchanging love, His almighty power and His perfect wisdom.

God's unchanging love determines everything that He allows into our lives. Even prayer-requests that are refused, are refused by that same perfect Divine love.

God's almighty power will prevent any temptation that is too much for us, from ever coming to us (1 Cor.10:13); and it will help us to overcome every temptation that does come to us (Heb.4:16); and it will make everything that comes our way to work for our very best (Rom.8:28).

God's perfect wisdom will never make a mistake in anything that He allows into our life - and He alone knows what is for our eternal good.

You must never lose your total confidence in these three attributes of God. That is what it means to live by faith. Unfortunately, the phrase "living by faith" has been changed by full-time workers to refer to God providing money for their needs. But that is a wrong use of the word. The Bible says that all "the righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). We must use Biblical words in the same way that the Bible uses them always.

If we are careless in the matters of faith and a good conscience, we can gradually develop an evil heart (a bad conscience) and an unbelieving heart (one that has lost faith). These can make us fall away from God. (Hebrews 3:12).

To preserve us from such a falling away, we are told to exhort and encourage one another every day (see the next verse, Heb.3:13). So it is good for you to listen to some exhortation from Scripture every day - by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, or by reading good Christian books, or by listening to messages, both in church-meetings and on cassette-tapes.

Reigning Over Our Thoughts

In 1 Cor.15:24, we read that Christ will deliver up the kingdom to the Father after He has subdued all rebellion and put everything under His feet. This is how He will do it in our case also. He wants to offer us up to the Father after He has subdued all rebellion within us and defeated all the lusts that ruled our bodies. The thoughts and opinions that run riot within our minds must all be brought into subjection by the mighty weapon of the death of Christ that has been placed at our disposal (the power of the cross), before we are fit to be presented to the Father (2 Cor.10:4,5).

The giants that roar like Goliath in our minds, in times of temptation have to be hammered and beaten until their voice gets reduced to a whisper and finally to nothing. God will encircle us with people and situations that bring us down and crush our self-will (if we cooperate with Him), until He triumphs over us inwardly. Then all our enemies are defeated. When you are weak in yourself, then you will be truly strong in the Lord.

It is good to spend a few minutes with God as soon as you wake up. A small amount of time like that can make a world of difference to your day. Cut out all other thoughts at that time. If there are cares and worries that come crowding into your mind at such times, then convert those worries into prayers and leave them with God, and press on.

Knowing God

The greatest thing in the world is to know God. Because when we know God, we will know what to do in every situation that we face. We will also be bold to face life, even if the whole world is against us, because we know that we stand on firm ground. It takes time to know God. So it is good for you to start now when you are young. In order to know God, you must be willing to consider everything in this world as rubbish, relatively. That means that the things that worldly people consider great must not only have no attraction for you, but seen as garbage! That is how it was for Paul (See Philippians 3:8). If we pursue after money or pleasure or honour or greatness in this world, we will discover one day, in the clearer light of eternity, that our hands are filled with rubbish. We will discover then that we spent our earthly lives clinging on to rubbish, when God was all the time calling us to possess His riches. So be wise - and only use the things of earth (because we need them to live here) but never be taken up with any of them, lest you sell your birthright for a bowl of porridge.

If God sees that you are serious about your Christian life, He will shake all that can be shaken in your life , so that you are not deceived about your relationship with Him. He is jealous for your spirit. He wants you to know Him personally and not in a book (the Bible) or through another person.

Praise God for His love, that shows us our true condition, so that we can rectify whatever is necessary, now itself. It is not enough that we hate sin and keep ourselves pure. No. We must come into a deep personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Otherwise all of our cleansing ourselves can become merely a 'Moral Self-Improvement Program'. To build a close relationship with the Lord, first of all, you must be very careful to keep your conscience clear, by mourning for, and confessing any known sin, as soon as you are aware of it. Then you must cultivate the habit of talking to the Lord often during the day. Thus alone will you be able to stand, when everything around you crumbles and falls one day.

This is my greatest longing for all of you, my sons - that you may know the Lord, for this alone is eternal life (Jn.17:3). It is this knowledge of the Lord alone that has helped me to stand undisturbed, and at rest, and above all, in love, when opposed and maligned by Christian groups and pastors, both in India and abroad. I long that each of you will know the Lord in the same way - and in an even better way than I have known Him.

Tremble at God's Word

I am burdened to ask you to read and meditate on Proverbs 7 (in the Living Bible) to keep you from girls who will lead you astray. There is a strong warning there - "The way to Hell lies through her house" (v.27). It is a good habit to read some of those early chapters of Proverbs now and then (particularly chapters 1 to 9).

Satan's first scheme was to tell Eve that God would not do as He had said (Gen.3:1-6). He told her, " You shall surely not die". It was thus that he was able to lead Eve into sin. He tries the same method today also. God's Word says that believers who " live after the flesh shall surely die" (Rom.8:13). But Satan says, " You shall surely not die". And most believers believe him and continue in sin.

How many really believe that it is better to lose one's eye, and be blind, than to lust after a woman; and that it is better to lose one's right hand than to commit sexual sin with it. How many really believe that those who don't take anger and sexual sin seriously will finally go to Hell (Matt.5:22-30)? How many believe that it is equivalent to shaking one's fist at God to disobey His Word and to marry an unbeliever (2 Cor.6:14)? How many believe that only the pure in heart will see God (Matt.5:8)? How many believe that those who do not pursue peace with all men and sanctification will not see the Lord (Heb.12:14). How many believe that every careless word that they speak, they will have to give an account for, in the day of judgment (Matt.12:37). There are very few believers in the world who believe these words of God. Such is the work of deception that Satan has done in Christendom. As a result, most believers have lost the fear of God and the fear of His warnings. They play the fool with sin until Satan has destroyed them thoroughly.

God looks at those who are broken in spirit and who tremble at His Word (Isa.66:1, 2). We must tremble at every warning in God's Word. This is the proof that we really fear God. It is only those who are perfecting holiness in the fear of God who will become a part of Christ's Body finally. Only those who overcome will be saved from the second death (the lake of fire) and will have the right to partake of the tree of life (Rev.2:7, 11). This is what the Spirit is saying to all the churches. But those who have ears to hear are very, very few.

Chapter 10
Chapter 10

Daily Renewal of Our Inner Man

Our outer man decays every day. That happens automatically. It is God's will however that our inner man should be renewed every day too (2 Cor.4:16). But that does not happen automatically.

Most believers are not being renewed every day, because they donot do the one thing that Jesus said we should do every day - take up the cross (Lk.9:23). To be renewed in the inner man is to partake increasingly of the life of Jesus within. This can come only as we bear in our body the dying of Jesus daily (2 Cor.4:10). Every single day has its allotted quota of troubles, trials and temptations (as Jesus said in Matt.6:34). It is in these trials that we are to bear the cross and die to ourselves, so that each temptation is made to yield some glory for us.

It is not the will of God that we live an up-and-down life (sometimes on the mountain-top, and sometimes in the dumps). He desires that our lives move consistently only upwards - the inner man being constantly renewed. So we must steadfastly set our face to bear the dying of Jesus at every opportunity that we get every day. We cannot get Divine life from the 'excitement' of meetings and conferences. Many deceive themselves that they have become spiritual, because they were emotionally stirred at a meeting or a conference. But growth does not come from merely attending meetings and conferences. Growth comes through faithfully bearing the cross in the ordinary grind of daily life. We cannot go to meetings every day. But because we have temptations every day, we have the opportunity to be renewed every day.

We must seek to live each day then without complaining and grumbling, in simple faithfulness to the Lord, in the daily temptations, recognizing that our lives do not belong to us (for us to do what we like with it), but that our lives belong to the Lord, because He created us and He purchased us. Then we shall experience daily renewal. But just like the decay of our body is not noticeable every day, but only after some length of time, even so the renewal of the inner man also will be noticeable only after a few years. But the renewal itself will take place every day, if we are faithful (2 Cor.4:16). So be faithful in the little things and the big. You will realize in the end that it was worth it all, to have crucified your flesh (Gal.5:24), put God first, and lived totally for Him.

No Eternal Regret

Let me tell you the truth before God: I have never wanted any of you, my sons, to be great or prosperous in this world - for I see clearly that all that is garbage. I have only wanted you all to live godly lives and to build the church, and to fulfil His perfect plan for your lives - whether that be in India or anywhere else. I pray that God will enable me to see my heart's longing fulfilled.

I see so clearly what it will be like in eternity for those who miss God's best in their earthly life. They will have millions of years of regret because they did not give the Lord their hearts, their bodies and their will completely - because they will see clearly in heaven how much the Lord had loved them and all that He suffered for them.

Never forget your "purification from your former sins" (2 Pet.1:9), for it is only when you recognize that " you have been forgiven much, that you can love much" (Lk.7:47). It will be easy to become a Pharisee, if you ever forget how much God has forgiven you, both before and after you were converted. Like Paul, I also see myself in God's eyes as "the foremost of sinners" (1 Tim.1:15). I feel I was the most undeserving and the worst of the lot, when God picked me up and decided to give me a ministry. And I still haven't done enough yet to repay Him for what He did for me.

Here is a lovely poem of how it will be at the judgment seat of Christ for many:

"When I stand at the judgment-seat of Christ,

And He shows me His plan for me,

The plan of my life as it might have been

Had He had His way, and I see -

How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there

And I would not yield my will.

Will there be grief in my Saviour's eyes -

Grief, though He loves me still?

He would have me rich, and I stand there poor,

Stripped of all but His grace,

While memory runs like a hunted thing

Down the paths I cannot retrace.

Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break

With the tears I cannot shed;

I shall cover my face with my empty hands,

I shall bow my uncrowned head.

Lord of the years that are left to me,

I give them to Thy Hand;

Take me and break me and mould me

To the pattern Thou hast planned." (Annie Johnson Flint)

Prayer and God's Word - Weapons of Our Warfare ­­­­

You can change things that happen around you by prayer. Try it - and see what God will do for you. God is not going to restrain others from sinning - for He has given everyone a free will. But He will certainly prevent us from being tempted beyond our ability to overcome, through any of the actions of those others.

The hope that God has given us through the gospel is that we will be completely saved from this wretched nature of Adam in our flesh that makes us serve the law of sin (Rom.7:25). When we mourn each time we fall into sin, that is a cry that God hears from us that we are sick and tired of serving the law of sin. Then a righteous God will one day answer our cry and deliver us completely - as He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, when they sighed and cried out to Him (See Exod.2:23-25).

This hope is the anchor that our soul has "inside the veil" (in the immediate presence of God), where Jesus has gone ahead of us as our Forerunner (Heb.6:19, 20). So we refuse to get discouraged. In all the storms and ups and downs of life, our anchor holds in God's presence. I pray that you will have this anchor of hope to hold your life steady, when Satan attacks you in subtle ways.

Whenever tempted by any fear or anxiety, it is good to quote some Scripture like, "The Lord has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you '"(Heb.13:6), or " When I walk in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me" (Micah 7:8). Jesus Himself overcame Satan by quoting the Scriptures. God allows us to be tempted in the area of fear exactly like He allows us to be tempted in the area of sex - so that we can overcome it. Rejoice when you are tempted, for then you can get credit for passing one more course! And thus you will be able to be a mini-forerunner for others in that area, the days to come. Everything that God allows in our lives today is to prepare us for a ministry to others in the future.

Think of the example of Eleazar, one of David's mighty soldiers (2 Sam.23:9,10). He defied the Philistines, when all the other Israelites had run away. At the end of the battle, he could not open his fingers from the sword because he had been holding it for so many hours - " his hand clung to the sword" (v.10). When the other Israelites saw his victory, they came back. That is a good example for you to follow - to have God's Word so stuck in your mind that you can't lose it, and to stand with Jesus and hold on to territory (in your body) that was won for God on Calvary. Thus you will challenge backsliders also to come back to God.

Partaking of God's Glory

Satan has blinded even the minds of believers so that they are unable to see ALL that there is in the wonderful "gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Thess.2:14) - the good news that every part of our personality can be transformed into the likeness of Christ. The phrase, "the salvation of our soul" (1 Pet.1:9) actually means the transformation of our personality (our soul) from its Adamic attitudes and traits to Christ-like character - not merely to external Christ-like conduct, but to character that flows from deep within one's personality - a genuine change.

We can hear challenging messages and be temporarily stirred. But it is only when our eyes are opened to see the glory of becoming like Christ, that we will begin to take things seriously. There is a glory that we can partake of, if we are faithful in temptation, as Jesus was. The proof that we have seen this glory is that we will be quick to obey God, quick to humble ourselves, quick to apologise to people we have hurt, quick to flee from temptation and eager to seek for fellowship with the godly. Believers who are slow and sluggish in these areas haven't seen this glory as yet.

All sin begins in the thoughts. Only much later does it become manifest externally. So, if we are unfaithful in our thoughts, one day we will slip up externally too. We can't keep sin hidden inside our hearts forever. In the same way, the glory also becomes ours in our inner thought-life first. It may take years before it becomes manifest in our external life. This challenges us to live before God's face at all times - and not to seek to impress human beings. But we must always be careful, for the Lord's sake, to keep a good testimony before all men.

You may often be in the place where you have to choose between the pearl of greatest price and a pearl of lesser price. Satan may offer you a certain glory of this world if you will bow the knee to him just a little. Jesus too was tempted like that. There will certainly be something attractive to the flesh about the things that Satan offers you. But that is where the Lord will test you to see whether you are willing to give up something earthly for His Name's sake. It is easy for any activity to become an idol, if it takes you away from God. What you offer to the Lord must cost you something - and must never be something cheap. It is when you give Him something very precious that you prove that you really love the Lord more than anything else in this world.

Often, we don't realize what a wonderful gift of God, good health is - until we see others who don't have it. There are thousands of things that can go wrong with our bodies. And yet, in God's marvellous grace, they haven't gone wrong. Always be thankful to God for His grace in having given you a healthy body - one with which we can do God's will and glorify Him.

Chapter 11
Chapter 11

Seeking Our Own - The Root of All Evil

The crux of true Christianity is to deny our own will and to do the will of God. Where your own will crosses the will of God is where you will find the cross on which you have to die. That is the point at which your faith in God and your love for Him will be tested. Many believers satisfy themselves with attending meetings and with living a decent external life. But the crucial point, at which they can really discover whether they are following Jesus or just being religious, is the point of the daily cross. May the Lord help you in every situation to die to yourself. That is the way of joy and happiness and blessing and fulfilment and eternal life. Jesus Himself has demonstrated that to us by His life on earth.

Paul said that he did not seek his own profit, but the profit of the many that they may be saved, and then asked us to follow His example, as He was following Christ's (Read 1 Cor.10:33 and 11:1 together). This, by the way, is one of the many places in the New Testament where the division between the two chapters is misleading and makes us miss a truth. (Some other examples of this are John 7:53 and 8:1; Rom.7:25 and 8:1; Heb.11:40 and 12:1-4; 1 Cor.9:27 and 10:1-5).

It is possible for us to follow Jesus in certain specific areas, such as overcoming lusting, anger, bitterness, love of money etc., and yet not hit the root of sin in the flesh. Lucifer and Adam sinned - not by committing adultery or murder, or by backbiting or gossiping, or by lusting with their eyes. They both sinned by seeking their own profit and gain. This is the root of all sin - seeking our own.

Only when the axe is laid to this evil root, will the fundamental direction of our lives be altered. Until then, we can have victory in so many areas and still be seeking our own gain and profit and honour. This is why even many of those who preach victory over sin end up as Pharisees.

But those who are serious about finishing with seeking their own, will find, like Paul, that they begin to seek " the profit of the many that they may be saved" (1 Cor.10:33). Paul speaks in the previous verse (1 Cor.10:32) of three categories of people "Jews, Gentiles and the church" - that is, those under theold Covenant, those under no covenant and those under the new covenant. He longed that they all might be saved. We have the same three categories of people around us today - believers who don't have victory over sin (old covenant), unbelievers (no covenant) and disciples of Jesus who are living in victory (new covenant). Towards all these three groups of people, our attitude must be: " I don't seek my own profit, but their profit, so that they might be saved from all the sin that dwells in their flesh ." This was the attitude of Jesus Himself, when He came from heaven.

It is only when believers have this attitude : " I do not seek my own profit, but the profit of the many that they might be saved " - that they will be able to build the church as the Body of Christ. Otherwise even their sharing of profound subjects in the meetings will only be for their own honour.

Jesus never sought His own. He always sought His Father's glory. This alone is true spirituality - and nothing less than this. The ultimate purpose for which a person is living determines whether he is a godly person or a sinner - and not just the little victories that he gets here and there over lust and anger etc. - although these are also important, because they also prove that one is not seeking his own pleasure. As Jesus said, in another context, " These ought you to have done and not leave the other undone."

Focus on God's Grace

It is very easy for a believer to be ignorant of his true spiritual condition, if he does not live before God's face. This is clear from the rebukes that the Lord gave to the leaders of the seven churches in Revelation. To the messenger (elder) of the church in Laodicea, he said, "You do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked."

God allows different situations to arise in our lives that will expose what lies hidden in our hearts. Through the years we have stored many unpleasant memories in our hearts as a result of the difficult experiences we have had with different people. They lie hidden at the bottom of our hearts - and we imagine that our hearts are clean. Then God allows some small thing to happen, that stirs up all this rotten stuff and brings them all into our minds. That is the time we must cleanse ourselves and forgive the people involved and decide to love them. If we don't use such an opportunity to cleanse these things from our hearts, they will sink to the bottom again after the turmoil is over, and remain in our hearts. We can then imagine that all is well. But it isn't so. Another small event can bring them all up to our mind again. So we must cleanse ourselves every time something surfaces.

We see in the case of the elder brother of the prodigal son, how he had a wrong attitude towards his younger brother. Yet this surfaced only when his brother came back and a feast was made for him. Then we see how he accused his brother with accusations that he imagined, without verifying whether his statements were true or not (for example, that his younger brother had "wasted his money on harlots"). When we don't have a good relationship with someone, we will always believe the worst things about him.

The father told his older son "All that I have is yours". Instead of being occupied with what his father gave him, the elder brother was occupied with his own accomplishments: " I never disobeyed any of your commands. I have served you all these years ". He was also occupied with the shortcomings of his brother, " This son of yours has wasted your money" (Lk.15:29-32). Like that father, God also tells us, "All that I have is yours". Everything that is in Jesus is ours - all His purity, all His goodness, all His patience, all His humility etc.

The lesson we have to learn from this story is just this: Be occupied always with the riches of God's grace - and not with your own accomplishments, or with the failures of your fellow-believers.

Grow in Humility and Wisdom

We are so glad the Lord has opened your eyes to see the way that Jesus walked all through His earthly life - the way of death to Self. If you can hold on to that vision until the end of your life, no-one can take away your crown (Rev.3:11). How I wish that all believers could see this glorious way that Jesus has opened for us. It would deliver them from complaints, criticisms, fears, tensions and every other evil. Satan would then no longer have any power over them.

I see Jesus as One Who always dwelt in lowly thoughts, right from his earliest days. He did not have to grow in humility - for He was always perfectly humble. He was just as willing to be classified with the criminals at the age of 15 as He was at the age of 33, on Calvary (Isa.53:12). But there were newer and newer occasions for Him, as He grew up, to humble Himself, in the different situations that He encountered. That is what it means when it says that He grew in wisdom. He faced new temptations at each stage of His growth that He could not have faced at an earlier age. And as He overcame, He grew in wisdom - without ever sinning or doing anything foolish at any stage. We, on the other hand, have to grow in humility as well as in wisdom, for we start-off as very proud people, having lived for ourselves for so many years. But we can now finish with all that folly of pride and high thoughts, and grow in true wisdom - the wisdom that comes from humility.

Chapter 12
Chapter 12

Power over Satan

If the Lord Himself is not most precious to you, then a veil will come between Him and you, blocking your view of Him (2 Cor.3:14-16). This veil is basically "the flesh" (Heb.10:20). But in practical terms, it is the attachment of the flesh to something of earth - some human being, or some material possession, or your profession etc. It could even be the Bible itself that can become a hindrance to your knowledge of the Lord (See 2 Cor.3:14). Bible-knowledge that does not lead to a growing devotion to Christ is a deception. It will foster pride and Phariseeism.

God is jealous for your spirit (James 4:5) and seeks to preserve you in an exclusive love for Himself alone ("You must love the Lord your God with all your heart"), for only then can you love others in a pure way. Otherwise even your love for others will be selfish.

When we break bread together as Jesus commanded, we remember that it pleased the Father to crush Jesus (Isa.53:10). Because Jesus submitted completely to that crushing, He crushed Satan completely. That is the way for us to go as well. So if you allow God to crush your self-will completely ( not your personality, for God will never crush that ), then you will have power over Satan, so that he is crushed underneath your feet (Rom.16:20). The reason why many do not grow in the Christian life or become overcomers over Satan, is because they do not allow God to break their strong self-will, at the times when they are tempted through people and through circumstances. Satan blinds them at such times, to the glorious fact that God's will for their lives is as much better than their own choice, as light is better than darkness. You must always remember that you have been called to live on earth as those seated in the heavenly places with the Lord Jesus. That is how you will have Satan and all things under your feet.

Whenever you drink the cup at the 'breaking of bread', remember that you have unconscious sins that need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus - and for that, you must forgive all others first. You must walk in the light God gives you, and confess whatever sins you are aware of. Then you will be cleansed completely (1 John 1:7,9).

Remember also that Jesus shed His blood, resisting sin unto death (Heb.12:4). So when you drink that cup you are testifying that you also want to have the same attitude towards sin that He had.

What we believe in our hearts must be confessed with our mouths (Rom.10:9, 10). The words you speak to others (whether in a church-meeting or in private conversation) must always be words of faith, and never words of discouragement or unbelief. You must confess your faith (and not your sins) in the meetings of the church. Many are unwise and confess their sins in the meetings. This is often done only to show that they are humble brothers. That is honour-seeking. Confession of your defeats in public will only glorify Satan! The words you speak must always be words of faith and hope - that God will make things go better with you, even if things are not going well with you at the time.

By the word of your testimony you can overcome Satan, just like Jesus did (See Rev.12:11). And so open your mouth and tell Satan boldly and confidently:

- that sin will not rule over you (Rom.6:14);

- that God will never allow you to be tested or tempted beyond your ability (1 Cor.10:13);

- that God will make ALL things work for your very best (Rom.8:28);

- that God will never leave you nor forsake you at any time (Heb.13:5,6);

- that even if you fall, you will certainly rise (Micah 7:,8);

- that Satan is a liar (Jn.8:44) who was defeated by the Lord Jesus on the cross (Heb.2:14),

- other such words of God.

Sons - Not Servants

God wants you to be a son and not a servant. A servant only thinks of the minimum that he has to do for his master. A son however thinks of the maximum that he can do for his Father. That is one of the main differences between the spirit of the old covenant and the spirit of the new (See Gal.4:7).

In the Christian world, unfortunately, a 'servant of God' is understood as a greater person than a 'son of God'. This is ridiculous - for in no house does a servant hold a greater position than a son! Under the old covenant, the Israelites were servants, but now we are sons (Jn.15:15; Gal.4:7). All of us can now be true servants of the Lord, as His sons.

God's promise in the Old Testament was: " Those who honour Me I will honour" (1 Sam.2:30). Jesus expanded that to say, "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him" (Jn.12:26). And there Jesus explained what it meant to serve Him. He said that those who serve Him have to follow Him - and this meant falling into the ground and dying as He did (Jn.12:24), and hating our life in this world as He did (v.25). Such believers become true sons who serve the Lord, and will be honoured by the Father (v.26). If we are really keen on being honoured by God, we will gladly go this way. When Jesus spoke there of hating our 'life', He was referring to our Self-life and our Self-will. Jesus also had a will of His own - but He hated it and never did it (See John 6:38). It is impossible to follow Jesus if we don't hate and deny this self-will of ours, exactly as He did. If we seek to preserve our Self-life and its worldly interests, then we will certainly lose it one day. But if we are willing to give it up completely now, we'll get eternal life in its place (v.25). Those who choose this way are the ones the Father honours.

Humility and Maturity

I want to explain to you the difference between 'evil speaking' and 'disagreeing'. Paul, not only disagreed with Peter, but also wrote about his disagreement to some immature Galatian Christians (Gal.2:11-21). If either Paul's disagreement or his writing about the disagreement were sin, then one would have to accuse the Holy Spirit Himself of sin, in inspiring Paul to write such a passage of Scripture! On the contrary, that passage teaches us that God does not want any of us to be mindless zombies or cowardly compromisers, when it comes to the truths of His Word. My prayer is that none of you, my sons, will ever be a zombie or a coward. At the same time you must never be unloving to any human being, or rebellious to any God-appointed authority. God can never approve of those who judge His children or of those who rebel against His representatives.

I have left a number of Christian groups in my lifetime - because I felt that they were limiting God and not preaching the whole purpose of God. But I was careful not to have an unloving attitude towards any of them. That is the only thing you must be careful about. If I had not acted according to my convictions, just think what our fate as a family would have been. We would all have been in some dead denomination today! But disagreement must never bring disrespect. That is the teaching of Romans 14 - which must become a reality in our lives.

I hope you can go to the meetings in the churches you are attending there, with a spirit of humility, and ignore the probing questions that busybodies there may ask you to satisfy their curiosity. Don't reply to any of those questions. We go to meetings primarily to meet with God; and if we go with humble, receptive hearts, God will certainly meet with us, and speak to us. But it is impossible to avoid meeting up with immature believers with their Pharisaic curiosity. Such people are found everywhere. We must develop a mature attitude, and overcome the irritation that their words may cause, by ignoring them. There are some immature believers who are always eager to give you a spiritual check-up, every time they meet you! You must ignore their questions and respond with wisdom and humility. The world is full of busybodies. To escape them, you will have to leave this world and go to heaven! But you can be undisturbed by them, ignore their comments, and love them. Then you will be an overcomer. You must always find your security in God alone.

Remember also that being honest doesn't mean that you have to tell others about your failures or about the problems you are facing. That would be as foolish as giving someone your detailed medical history, when he asks a simple question like, "How are you?" You can keep quiet. You have heard me say many times that the opinions of men are only fit for the garbage-bin. So don't ever live to please men.

Fighting a Good Fight

It was good to hear of your battles. A war consists of many battles. And even if a few battles are lost here and there, that means nothing. The war can still be won. In fact you will win. You must confess that hope. Those who honour God will be honoured by Him. People who are immoral and who live in sin around you will be agitated with you, because your stand for God and purity shows up their sin. Thus you become the light of the world (Matt.5:16) exposing the darkness.

Both Mom (when she was a student in the medical college) and I (while I was in the Navy) had to take a stand for the Lord, when it came to attending parties - and we have both lived, not only to see God honour us for the stand we took then, but also to thank God for preserving us in our youthful days from much sin, foolishness and backsliding.

When our soulish feelings fluctuate up and down, we must develop the habit of speaking the word of our testimony to our soulish feelings and to our lusts and to Satan, confessing God's Word, something like this: " God is still on the throne. My sins are all forgiven and cleansed. God sees me now as if I have never sinned. The things that are visible are all temporal. All things will work together for my good. Satan has been defeated permanently on the cross. I will come out triumphant, no matter how many ups and downs I may face - because God is on my side."

As Paul says, " We may be knocked down, but we are not knocked out" (2 Cor. 4:9 - J.B. Phillips translation). We get up before the count of 10, and go on to win the war against Satan. We can lose one or two battles and still win the war finally! Such an attitude makes our spirit to have a steady upward course, even though our feelings may go up and down. May it be so with you at all times. Live in your will (in your decision to follow Jesus) always and never in your feelings. The direction in which your will is set, determines what you will become.

Chapter 13
Chapter 13

An Adequate Response to God

What is an adequate response to God in view of all that He has done for you? It is not enough that you just speak words of gratitude to Him. Romans 12 (the entire chapter) is the answer to that question. In view of " the mercies of God", here is what you should do:

1. First of all, present your body to Him as a living sacrifice (v.1). That word `sacrifice' indicates that it is going to cost you something to give your body to the Lord. Something has to be sacrificed - and that will be your strong self-will which wants to use your body - your eyes, hands, tongue and your senses and passions etc - to please yourself.

2. Present your mind (v.2), to be renewed - that is, to look at people and circumstances the way God looks at them. Here is where you will have to cleanse yourself, from impurity in the way you look at girls, from bitterness in the way that you look at people who have harmed you, from partiality in the way you look at those whom you like and don't like, and from unbelief, worry and fear in the way you look at circumstances or the future. Always ask yourself, "How does God look at this person or this situation?" And cleanse yourself from every other way of looking at them.

3. Don't think too highly of yourself (v.3). It is the measure of your faith - and not the measure of your knowledge or your zeal - that is the real gauge of your spirituality.

4. Fulfil your ministry with whatever gifts and talents God has given you, to build the Body of Christ (v.4-8). Don't bury it in the ground (in the world), as the man with one talent did. Be zealous in serving the Lord (v.11), and pray (=listen to God and talk to Him) frequently (v.12).

5. Hate what is evil, and cling to what is good (v.9). Doing the latter will help you to do the former more easily.

6. Love and honour all the brothers - for they are the younger brothers of Jesus (v.9, 10). Be good to them (v.13). Rejoice when it goes well with any of them and grieve with those who are in sorrow (v.15). Have a humble attitude towards all - especially towards the poor and the less gifted ones in Christ's Body (v.16).

7. Love and bless all men, especially those who do evil to you (v.14, 17-21). Live at peace with all, as far as possible. Never take vengeance or desire anything bad for those who have been bad to you. Do good to them and thus overcome evil with good. The whole world is full of people who try to overcome evil with more evil. But evil can never conquer evil. Only good can conquer evil, because good is more powerful than evil. This is what Jesus demonstrated on Calvary . Persevere in the tribulations that God sends your way and rejoice in the hope that they are all designed to make you more like Jesus (v.12).

It is in these ways that we prove to God that we are indeed grateful to Him for all that He has done for us, and for the richness of His mercy towards us in forgiving us again and again.

Fullness of the Holy Spirit

If we were to draw a graph of our Christian life, it will have ups and downs in it. That is how everybody's experience is. But the general direction should be upward as the years pass by. We move slowly upwards, with ups and downs and with plateaus in between. Our falls become less frequent, and the plateaus gradually become longer. The climbs are not necessarily sudden and steep - although it could be so occasionally. But generally the climbs are more gradual. But with those who don't believe in, or seek after victory, the graph will keep going downwards - because they do not fear God or believe His promises. However, it is impossible to depict our growth in God perfectly by any graph. Every graph is deficient at some point.

Take sin seriously and mourn after every single failure. That way you will know that you do indeed fear God. As you have often heard me say, the fact that we fall into sin is not as serious as the fact that we do not mourn after we fall into sin. If I have taught you to repent and mourn immediately after you fall into sin (or grieve God in any way) then I have done my duty to you as a father. I hope I have taught you that properly.

The widow who came to Elisha in her need (2 Kings 4) was told to borrow vessels from her neighbours and to pour out her small can of oil into them and fill them up. Thus she could clear her debt. She did that. Finally her sons said, "There are no more vessels to be filled". Then we read the words: "Then the oil stopped flowing".

The oil here is a picture of the Holy Spirit. And this is exactly what happens to many who experience the baptism (infilling) of the Spirit. They are genuinely filled initially. But then a time comes in the lives of many of them, when there is no more sense of need (no more vessels to be filled). Then the Spirit stops flowing through their lives. The empty vessels could represent the areas in our life where we are un-Christ-like. There are many, many areas like that in all of our lives that need to be filled right up to the brim - and not just partially.

In some areas, where you may have got victory over sin, the vessels are only partially full - for Christlikeness (or partaking of the Divine nature) is far more than victory over sin. For example, there is a lot of difference between not having any bitterness against someone and loving him. The former is merely negative (victory over sin). The latter is positive (the Divine nature). In the same way, there is a lot of difference between not getting angry and speaking good words that bless. Even so in many other areas. If we are satisfied that we have overcome sin in some area, then we rest content imagining that " There are no more vessels left". Then the oil stops flowing - and we begin to backslide.

We must live a life of constant repentance ourselves, and not judge others. Our duty is only to see that we always have empty vessels ready to be filled. Only thus can we clear our debt (like that widow). Our debt is described in Romans 13:8 - "You owe a debt of love to all men". It is thus that we can be a blessing to others. Every situation is designed to save us from some area of Self and to make us a blessing to others. Others cannot be blessed through us, if our own empty vessels are not filled first.

Confidence before God

God is a better Father than the best father on earth. So we insult God if we don't believe that He will give us the Holy Spirit and all other good things when we ask Him (Luke 11:13; Matt.7:11). This is why unbelief is a terrible sin. Unbelief in prayer amounts to accusing God of being more evil than our earthly fathers. Many who pray to God don't receive what they ask for, because they don't believe. They are so occupied with condemnation over their past failures, that they feel that God cannot possibly give them anything. But the mercies of God are new every morning (Lam. 3:22, 23). Each day God looks at us with no remembrance at all of even the sins that we committed the previous day, if we have confessed those sins. When we believe this fact, we will approach God with great boldness. There will always be those who take advantage of this goodness of God. But we don't have to be in that number. We can be among those who are so grateful for God's forgiveness that we want to live the rest of our lives to please Him.

The greatest danger that we face is that of having a form of godliness, without the power for godliness (2 Tim.3:5). We face this danger more when we seek man's honour. The power of godliness is the power to preserve our hearts in purity and love, in times of temptation and provocation. It is possible for us to cover up our inner failures with a veneer of speaking the right language and singing the right songs etc., so that no-one even suspects that things are really bad in our hearts. We must hate this thoroughly. Although we don't have to confess our sins and failures to others, we must be careful that we don't give others an impression of our spirituality that is not true.

Perplexity in Prayer

When we cannot understand why things happen the way they do, or when we do not get an answer to our prayers, we must do what Jesus did on the cross. After He had prayed asking the Father, " My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?", and did not get an answer from heaven, Jesus said, " Father into Thy hands I commit My spirit". This is what we should do too - commit our cause to Him.

The widow, who kept on persistently asking the judge for justice against her enemy, finally got what she wanted due to her persistence (Luke 18). This is the evidence of faith. Jesus said, that when we ask God for something that we know is His will (e.g. forgiveness of our sins, victory over sin, the fullness of the Spirit, and the other things promised us in the Scriptures), we must keep on asking until we get it. If we don't get an answer immediately, we commit our cause to our Father in faith.

Here is a lovely poem that I read:

"Games can't be won unless they are played,

And prayers can't be answered unless they are prayed.

So no matter how busy or crowded your day,

Make it a practice to take time to pray.

And never start wondering if God heard your prayer,

Or if He is able to take care of your care.

Just tell Him your problem and be not dismayed,

If His answer is sometimes deferred or delayed.

For God never hurries, yet He's never too late,

But He often tests us when He asks us to wait.

And there is no problem too great or too small -

God has the wisdom to take care of them all.

Not always the way that we most want Him to,

But always the way that will prove best for you.

We ask Him for pleasure, enjoyment and health,

Laurel and honours and prestige and wealth.

But instead of a crown He sends us a cross,

And instead of rich gains, we are made poor by loss.

But great is our gladness and rich our reward,

If we trust in the judgment and will of the Lord." (Helen Steiner Rice)

Secure in the Love of God

We must find our security in the Fatherhood of God. When we pray to God for something that is for our spiritual growth or welfare - such as for grace or for wisdom or the fullness of the Spirit - and then feel that God may be reluctant to give it to us, because we are not worthy enough to receive it, since we have failed so much in the past, we make one mistake and commit two evils:

(1) Mistake: We think that we can get God's gifts by being worthy enough. We must be rooted and grounded in the knowledge of this fact that even in a million years we will never be worthy enough to get even the least of God's gifts. This is why we approach God on the basis of Jesus' worthiness and not our own. This is the meaning of praying in Jesus' Name. All the promises of God are Yes and Amen only in Him (2 Cor.1:20).

(2) Evil No.1: Accusing God of remembering our former sins against us, when we pray to Him, and of not having done a good-enough job of cleansing our hearts, even though we have confessed our sins. This amounts to despising the power of Christ's blood to blot out every trace of every sin we have committed in our past life. It makes the guilt of our sin greater than the power of Christ's blood. It implies that we have been faithful to do our part (confessing our sins), but that the Lord has not been faithful to do His part in cleansing them away. This is a terrible evil - so terrible that we must repent of it, and make sure that we never again accuse God of not being true to His Word.

(3) Evil No2: Accusing God of being less forgiving and less considerate than earthly fathers who know how to overlook many failures in their children and to give them good things despite their failures (Matt.7:7-11).

Unbelief is such a great evil (Heb.3:12) that unless we see it clearly, we will go astray. Until we see unbelief as an evil, we won't learn to hate it sufficiently. We must always see ourselves as having been accepted by God in Christ and as children securely sitting on our heavenly Father's lap without a care in the world, because our Father has all our cares.

Chapter 14
Chapter 14

Perfect in Mercy

Jesus commanded us " to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt.5:48). The context shows that He was referring to being loving and good to those who hurt us, or harm us, or speak evil of us. The parallel passage in Luke shows that Jesus was referring to being " perfect in mercy as our Father is" (Luke 6:36). It is in this area of mercy towards others that we must strive for perfection.

There are many things that we see at the cross where Jesus died, that are a picture of how we also must react inwardly, when we take up our cross.

The bread that we break symbolises a fellowship with Jesus in being willing to be broken quickly (like bread is), when we see that the will of God is opposed to our own will. The cup speaks of a fellowship with Jesus' blood of the new covenant (which cries out to forgive others), unlike the blood of Abel (that cried out for revenge) (Heb.12:24).

The greatest sin ever committed on earth was the crucifixion of Jesus. It is clear to everyone that those who killed Jesus knew what they were doing. Yet Jesus assumed that they did not know Who He really was, and so He prayed that they might be forgiven for they were ignorant. This is what it means to be merciful to others.

Jesus bowed his head and died on the cross. Then the soldiers came and tested him with a thrust of the spear to see whether he was really dead. This is how God allows us also to be tested - as to whether we have really died with Jesus. God is the One who determines who crucifies us and who thrusts their spears into our side. Jesus not only never reacted to that spear-thrust, for He was really dead, but we also see that His blood - the blood of the new-covenant - immediately covered the spear. This is the way for us too. We immediately forgive the spear-thrusts of others, release them, and respond with the love of God. That is what it means to follow Jesus.

Righteousness and Goodness

If our righteousness is to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees, our righteousness must be like God's - full of goodness (Mt.5:20, 44-48). Goodness is more than righteousness (See Rom.5:7: " One will hardly be willing to die for a righteous man; although for a good man some may be willing to die "). Righteousness is like the bones in our body and goodness is like the flesh that covers the bones. We must have all our bones - total obedience to all of God's commandments. But without goodness, we shall be like skeletons. Our inward obedience to God's commands must be hidden, just as the bones are hidden in our body.

It is our goodness alone that others must see. Jesus said in Matthew 6:1 that we should not allow men to see our righteousness, but He said at the same time, that men must see our good works (Matt.5:16). Our aim must be to manifest goodness to those outside the church, so that they are drawn to Christ through us, and not repelled by our skeleton-like "righteousness". Jesus manifested the glory of God " full of grace and truth" - flesh covering the bones. Sinners were repelled by the skeleton-like righteousness of the Pharisees. Yet they were drawn to Jesus who had more bones (righteousness) than the Pharisees. There is something for all of us to learn from that.

Divine Power and Human Ability

Temptation comes to us as a thought in the mind. We must resist it immediately. But when we start out seeking for victory, we don't usually succeed in resisting it until we have indulged in it for a few seconds at least. This is because of the way of life that we have been used to, for so many years. We must keep on battling until we get this initial time-delay in resisting, down to zero! Where we have sinned, we must confess immediately and repent and mourn.

It is not necessary to discern whether we are resisting sin in our own strength or God's. So long as we are resisting sin, we are doing the right thing. It is difficult in such situations to determine whether we are using Divine power or our own human power. It is something like when we ask God to help us in an examination. At what point does supernatural help come to assist us in that exam? It is difficult to determine that. But it is not necessary to determine it. God's power blends with our personality in such a quiet way that we are not even conscious of it.

It is the same when we seek to minister the Word in the power of the Spirit. It is difficult to determine whether we are speaking with our natural ability or with Divine power. We should not waste time trying to analyse that, for it is impossible and unprofitable. So too in the matter of victory over sin: The important thing is that we fight against sin and resist it.

Overcoming Sin

We cannot drive sin away from our flesh in Jesus' Name. It is only the Devil whom we can resist in Jesus' Name - and he will then flee from us. But it is only for that moment that Satan flees (James 4:7). He will come back again later, as he did to Jesus (See Luke 4:13). Then we have to resist him again.

Sin however in different. Sin dwells within our flesh and we will be tempted by it all the time, until the day we die.

To avoid sin is also a way to overcome it. The Bible tells us to flee from youthful lusts (2 Tim.2:22) and from immorality (1 Cor.6:18) - not to confront them.

When we find the pressure of temptation too much at any time and fear that we may yield to it, we must cry out for help immediately, just as Peter cried out for help when he was beginning to sink in the sea (Matt.14:30). This is what it means to run to the throne of grace for help. Your fleeing from sin and your struggling against sin are both a proof to God that you are determined to overcome sin in your life. And God will help you mightily.

Satan is always walking about like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour next (1 Pet.5:8). He has already devoured so many. He is looking for those who are careless enough to lust with their eyes, and who are bitter against others, and who are unrighteous. He marks such believers as targets to be devoured slowly. So we must always live in a healthy fear lest we fall.

An athlete disciplines himself in so many areas. Even so, you must discipline your bodily desires, if you want to overcome against Satan and your lusts and finally win in this heavenly race. Paul said, " I discipline my body and make it to do what it should do, and not what it wants to . Otherwise after having preached to others I myself will be disqualified " (1 Cor.9:27 - Living).

In the sermon on the mount, when Jesus said that our righteousness must be more than that of the Pharisees (Matt.5:20), He spoke of three parts of our body that we had to be especially careful with - our eyes, our tongue, and our hands (Matt.5: 29, 22, 37, 30; See also Matt.12:36, 37). So be very, very careful to avoid sin with these three members especially. These three members of the body are the ones that young men sin with the most - and usually in the order that I have mentioned above.

These are the three bodily members that we must yield to God as a living sacrifice, every day (Rom.12:1). That is the least that we can do in return for all that God has done for us. "Is that too much to ask?", the Holy Spirit asks (Rom.12:1 - Living).

God has allowed Satan and our lusts to be so strong, so that we don't ever imagine that we can conquer them with our own strength. We are compelled to seek for God's power. The Israeli spies saw themselves as grasshoppers when they saw the size of the inhabitants of Canaan. Yet Joshua and Caleb trusted in God's power and entered the land and slew those giants. We need that spirit to conquer ALL our lusts. So keep saying, in faith, " I can and I WILL conquer Satan and all my lusts, through the power of God ".

In every temptation, two roads are open to you - (i) the way of pleasure, and (ii) the way of suffering, where you deny the flesh the pleasure it is craving for. The latter way is the way of " suffering in the flesh " (1 Pet.4:1). As you keep on resisting and suffering, you will finally become willing even to die rather than to sin. Then you " resist sin unto blood " (Heb.12:4). May the Lord encourage you to go this way until the very end.

Chapter 15
Chapter 15

Balancing the Spiritual with the Academic

I am concerned that you should be level-headed and balanced as you mingle and fellowship with various Christian groups, for there can be Pharisaicaal tendencies among some of them. You must distinguish between the soulish and the spiritual in Christians, or you will be carried away and become Pharisaical yourself, like many of them. Learn to value ALL of God's children - including those in other groups than your own. That way you will be saved from Phariseeism.

In college, you must try and find the right balance between the spiritual and the academic - for God is the One Who has ordained both. He has not ordained that we spend all our time reading the Bible and attending meetings, but that we spend the major part of our time in secular, earthly occupations - whether working in an office, or studying in a college, or looking after home-needs as parents.

So you can't glorify God by merely going to many Christian meetings - if that is going to lead to your neglecting your studies and getting poor grades. To put God first is correct. But to put numerous meetings first is not necessarily correct. We should not equate God with meetings. We must be realistic.

Do your best (I don't say "Do well", but "Do your best") in your courses - for that is the best way you can glorify God for the amount of the Lord's money that has been invested in your education there. You cannot expect results beyond the level of your intelligence - and God Himself does not expect that either. But He certainly does expect you to work hard at your studies - and in order to do this, there may be many meetings and even conferences that you may have to miss. Don't think that you have to attend every single Christian meeting and every conference of your church there. Be balanced in your approach to all this.

The Lord is dishonoured when any Christian does not put his heart and soul into getting good grades at college. If in spite of doing his best, a person gets poor grades, that is all right, for that depends on the level of intelligence that God has given him. But laziness is different. God told Adam that he was to earn his living by the sweat of his brow. That is God's appointed way for all of us - through hard work.

Cultists teach people to neglect their studies, in order to be involved in the activities of their cult. Stay clear of such cultism. It is the kingdom of God and His righteousness that you must seek first, at all times, throughout your life. You must always be heavenly-minded and never earthly-minded. But remember that Jesus did a secular job for 30 years at home and in a carpenter-shop, and He was not going to synagogue-meetings every day.

If however, you are making too much of your studies and neglecting the spiritual, then I would give you exhortations in the opposite direction. The Holy Spirit speaks to us to turn right or left, according to which direction we are going off the straight path that Jesus walked in. In Isaiah 30:21, we read, " With your own eyes you will see your Teacher (Jesus). And if you leave God's paths and go astray, you will hear a voice behind you (of the Holy Spirit) saying, 'No, this is the way; walk here .'" (Living Bible). We all need to hear that voice constantly to keep us balanced. Wisdom is to be balanced in all things.

We are deeply thankful to God, as your parents, to see the wholehearted desire that you have for God and we want that fire to increase even more in the days to come. So everything that I have said above is only to enable you to be balanced, so that your zeal can be coupled with wisdom, so that you don't shoot off on a tangent like some shooting-star that appears for a short while and disappears. We want you to be a star that keeps shining forever. For that, you must grow in a balanced way that will glorify God. We pray to that end and we believe God will help you.

There is no way to do well in college except by working extra-time, doing more than is necessary. This is where you should make full use of your off-days, including Saturdays. Studying just what is taught will not be enough. You need to do extra reading, solve extra problems and do extra computer-programming. And never hesitate to ask others (professors or students) when you do not understand something. Remember also that we all have a tendency to overestimate our understanding of a subject. So it is quite possible that a lot of things you think you have understood, you really haven't. You will never know until you work out some problems in that subject, whether you have really understood it.

Protection from Media Influence

Let me give you a warning about watching TV programs. There is nothing wrong with watching news-programs and some sports events, in order to relax and to keep in touch with what is happening in the world. But most other TV programs are not only polluting to the mind, but also a tremendous waste of time that can hinder you from reading the Scriptures and from spending time with God. So be careful not to be polluted or to waste your time.

Whenever you plan to watch TV, ask yourself first whether you have spent some time reading the Bible that day. And also ask yourself who is going to run your life - the God of heaven or the god of this world?

I read in The Cross and the Switchblade that David Wilkerson as a young pastor once took a decision to cut out the two hours a day he spent watching TV and to spend that time in prayer, It was after one of those times of prayer that he saw a picture of some gang-members in New York in a newspaper. The Lord gave him a burden to help them and thus led him step by step to have a worldwide ministry of bringing drug-addicts to Christ.

Only one who has been tested and found faithful in the little things of life will be faithful in the big things. I know this will be a battle for you. But it is always a battle to possess ground that the enemy has conquered. However, in the long run, you will find that it is a battle well worth fighting. And when you enter the presence of your Lord, you will be glad that you fought this battle wholeheartedly.

May you be kept in this coming new year from worldly and polluting influences, and may it be a year in which you will have the grace and strength to say "No" where you have to, no matter what the consequences, and no matter who is going to be offended thereby. God will allow you to be tested in situations where it will become evident whether you are seeking the praise of men or of God. May you come out with flying colours in every such test.

Free From Guile

You wrote that someone told you that there would be only 144,000 people altogether in the Bride of Christ. Remember that the book of Revelation is full of signs and symbols (indicated by the word "signified" in Rev.1:1). So the number 144,000 in Revelation 14:1, is symbolic and not actual. The 144,000 refers to a relatively small number who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" and "inwhose mouth there is no guile" (Rev.14:1-5), compared to " the great innumerable multitude" who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:9, 14). It is a great testimony that we read about the 144,000 that they were "without guile" (Rev.14:5-KJV). Guile is what fills our lives from childhood onwards. We have deceived our parents in so many ways, we do sneaky things, and we give others an impression of our spirituality which is not true. All this is evil and must be cleansed out of our lives altogether. This is why we must judge ourselves constantly. Otherwise we will never come to the place where we are totally free from guile, to be in that remnant.

We must have a constant cry in our hearts to God day and night, as Jesus said in the parable of the widow (See Luke 18:7 - " God's elect cry to Him day and night "). We must have a cry like that widow for freedom from our enemy's (lust's) power, and for a life of purity and power where we never lose the fire of the Spirit. We must fear even a single sinful thought (whether of impurity, or hatred, or worldliness, or the love of money), more than we fear the disease of AIDS. God said at one time in Israel that there was no-one who " stirred himself to lay hold of God " (Isa.64:7). Even Timothy had to " kindle afresh " the fire of the Spirit that was within him (2 Tim.1:6). God does nothing automatically in us, for that would rob us of our free will. But He is mighty to help us, when He sees the slightest desire within us, for Him and for His best in our lives.

Chapter 16
Chapter 16

God Has a Perfect Plan for You

We must trust in the Lord at all times as the One Who will help us: (1) to conquer every lust in our flesh, (2) to fulfil His purpose for us in every trial, (3) to be overcomers in every situation, and (4) to manifest the virtues of Christ in the face of every evil. Then we will never get discouraged.

We are to be a living testimony to an unbelieving generation and to a compromising Christendom that we have a loving Father in heaven Who does miracles for us. God has a plan for your life. As you honour Him, day by day, you will find that plan. At the right time, He will open the right doors for you, in every area - for fellowship, for employment, for housing, and for marriage (when the time comes for these). Those who honour Him get the best in every area, no matter what their grades in college are, no matter what influence or financial resources they lack, and no matter how much of a recession there is in any country.

We are praying that you will have wisdom in everything you do. Folly is very prevalent among those in their teens and twenties. God's grace alone can keep you from making serious mistakes that can have lifelong consequences. So you must live in the fear of God and with great caution at all times.

Don't miss out on God's plan for your life. I gave my own life wholeheartedly to the Lord when I was 19½ years of age. Now, many years later, I can look back with joy that God could do something far better with my life than I could have made of it myself, if I had done what " seemed right in my own eyes". It's not that I have never sinned, or never done any foolish things, or never made any mistakes in all these years. I have done all of them - and I am thoroughly ashamed of my follies and blunders, as I look back over my life now. But God was merciful to me and He blotted all that out and led me on. I think He saw that despite my blunders, I sincerely sought to do His will. He is a rewarder of all who diligently seek Him, even if they make numerous mistakes. I am sure the same goodness and mercy of God will follow you also, all your days (Psa.23:6).

There are pleasant surprises waiting for you, as you seek to honour God, for "He is always silently planning for you in love" (Zeph.3:17-paraphrase). That includes every detail of your future - both earthly and spiritual. You can have God's very best, if you determine to honour God every day of your life. We don't plan our future as worldly people do. We have God working on our side and giving us special bonuses for us that we don't deserve, even in earthly matters like employment etc. So we are not anxious about the future at all. Like Jesus taught us, we live one day at a time, free from anxiety and tension, just like the birds of the air. Praise the Lord!

Paul did not even count his life as valuable, if only he could finish his course with joy (Acts 20:24 - KJV). When parents put their little child into school, they look forward to the day when he will graduate from school. It is the same with God. He has planned a course for us in life. We must finish the course that God has allotted for us on earth. During our earthly lives, we may make mistakes and blunders and even waste time foolishly. But thankfully, they will only be like the mistakes that all of us have made in mathematics, where we got some problems wrong in school. God has a perfect plan for us - in major matters like employment, marriage etc. But all of these can be fulfilled only as we seek to fulfil His will in the area of holiness. If we pursue holiness wholeheartedly, God will ensure that in all other earthly matters, His plan for our lives will be fulfilled.

What is Revival

In the midst of much talk about revival in Christian circles, you must remember that:

Revival is NOT noise and emotions.

Revival is NOT zeal in religious activity.

Revival is NOT fervency or fluency in preaching.

Revival is NOT exactness in doctrine.

BUT

Revival IS giving up everything sinful and worldly for Christ.

Revival IS freedom from seeking our own.

Revival IS humility that takes the lowest place.

Revival IS freedom from Phariseeism.

Revival IS power to overcome sin.

Revival IS love for ALL of God's children (Rom.5:5).

Revival IS graciousness in speech.

Revival IS a passion to live as a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8).

Any so-called "revival" that does not make a person count this world and its glory and its greatness as rubbish, and that does not inflame him with a fervent devotion to Jesus, is a counterfeit revival.

Wait for God's Best

You are now a target of Satan, because he fears that you could be a threat to his kingdom on earth in the days to come. I want to give you three bits of advice that can save you from Satan's snares:

(1) Always remain humble. Keep your face in the dust before God.

(2) Always remain in love. Keep your heart wide open to all of God's children.

(3) Always remain in purity. Be careful in your relationships with girls.

The third area is particularly important, because through the years, Satan has succeeded in tempting and trapping multitudes of young people into making the biggest blunder that any believer can make - marrying the wrong person. This is a blunder that God can certainly forgive, but which even He can never undo or rectify. God may be merciful to such believers. But things can never be as good for them as they might have been if they had waited for God's best. So it is good for you to recognize your lack of wisdom and to humbly depend on God. I cannot warn you strongly enough on this matter. Satan is after you. So stay close to God. God has wonderful ways of reserving the girl He has chosen for you, and of bringing her across your path at the right time. But He will also allow you to be tempted by others, before that time comes, so as to see what you choose.

Adam had two trees to choose from, and he chose the wrong one, even though the other tree was also freely accessible. God tests us too. Don't make the same mistake that Adam made of going by what his eyes and his reason told him. Listen to God's Word. That would have saved Adam and that is what will save you. Esau sold his birthright for a petty (or 'pretty'!!) bowl of porridge that temporarily satisfied his sensual appetite. Years later when he saw things in a clearer light, he regretted his decision, and tried to make amends for it, but it was too late. We are warned in Hebrews 12:16, 17 that we should not be godless as Esau was.

Some Godly Missionaries Whom We Will Meet

Henry Martyn came as a 25-year old missionary to India in 1806 and died 6 years later. But he made an impact on people in that short period and is remembered even today. When he was tempted to lust after the beauty of any girl, he would pray for her that she would be a pure and holy temple of the Holy Spirit. He found it impossible to lust for her, after praying for her like that. Follow his example.

Dan Crawford went to the interior of Congo in Africa as a missionary at the age of 18 (in 1888), and stayed there for 22 years. His father had died when he was just 4 years old, and so he had to leave school at an early age, to go to work in order to help his widowed mother and his younger sister. He used to share his lunch at the work-spot with poor labourers who were unemployed, and then share the gospel with them. God saw his faithfulness in little things and gave him a great ministry later on in Africa.

Robert Moffat went as a missionary to Africa in 1817 (at the age of 22) and laboured among the tribes there for 50 years and led many people to the Lord. He once wrote in an autograph-book:

"My album is the heathen breast,

Where tempests brood and shadows rest,

Without one ray of light.

To write the Name of Jesus there

And see that heathen bow in prayer -

This is my soul's delight."

James Calvert left England in 1838 (at the age of 25) with his wife, to be a missionary to the cannibals in Fiji. When they reached Fiji, the captain of the ship he was travelling in, tried to prevent him and his wife from going ashore, saying, "You will die if you go among those savages". Calvert replied, "We died before we came here!"

One day we will meet these and other men of God like them, in heaven. In that day, we should have no regret about what we lived for, during our earthly days. All are not called to be missionaries or full-time workers. And we don't have to go to Africa to prove that we love the Lord with all our hearts. But we are all called to fulfil the perfect will of God for our lives - whatever that may be and wherever that may lead us. " Obedience is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam.15:22).

We must constantly preserve our devotion to Jesus, so that whenever we sing about His love for us on Calvary's cross, it is never a stale message, but always a new song (as it is for the dwellers in heaven - Rev.5:9). It is easy for familiarity with that message to make us lose the wonder of "the love that sought us and the grace that brought us back to the fold" . When we begin to lose that wonder, we must recognize that backsliding has begun, even though the external evidences of our backsliding may become manifest only years later. The Holy Spirit alone can keep our devotion to Christ ever fresh. So keep " kindling afresh " the flame that God has put within you (2 Tim.1:6).

Chapter 17
Chapter 17

Wisdom for a Balanced Life

To find the right balance between spending time with God and doing our earthly tasks is the education in wisdom that Jesus had to get as a man in Nazareth, both while helping Mary as a young boy at home, and while working in the carpenter shop. This is obviously something that no-one else can teach us. Otherwise, Jesus need not have spent 30 years learning it. We can learn it only by denying our own preferences. One of the temptations Jesus must have had to face during His first thirty years must have been the temptation to go for prayer-meetings, or for spiritual meetings, when work needed to be done at home or in the carpenter-shop. He overcame that temptation and learned wisdom - the right balance. Now you have to learn the same wisdom. And so God will allow you also to be tempted in the same way, so that you can learn the right balance too. Only thus will you be able to present to God a heart of wisdom at the end of your earthly days (Psa.90:12).

God watches over His obedient children with a jealous love and so He does not allow them to have an easy way through life. You will get God's best every single day of your earthly life if you decide to honour God - for He honours all who honour Him. To honour Him does not mean attending lots of meetings. It means keeping your heart pure, being loving and humble, and putting God first in every area of your daily life. You will then have the best future, of all the students in your college - both here on earth and in eternity.

And finally, here is a word of the Lord to encourage you: " Your eyes have not seen nor have your ears heard, neither has it entered into your hearts the wonderful things that God has prepared for you if you love Him " (1 Cor.2:9).

Living in the Light

" He who is born of God keeps himself so that the Evil One cannot touch him " (1 Jn.5:18). There is only one place where Satan cannot touch the child of God - and that is in the light. Satan is the prince of darkness and has been given all areas of darkness by God. If a believer moves into areas of darkness, Satan immediately gets power over him. This is why it is dangerous to have guile, to do sneaky things (that cannot stand the light), or to read, or say, or do anything that we would be ashamed of doing in the light, where other believers can see it.

Just as Satan is the prince of darkness, he is also the " father of liars" . And he is looking for "mothers" who will unite with him to give birth to lies! All who tell lies give room to Satan in their lives. All children "go astray from birth telling lies" (Psa.58:3). We become experts at telling lies, deceiving both parents and teachers by the time we reach our teenage years. By the time we get converted, our life is filled with guile and lying. These evils are what need to be cleansed out.

If we don't hate all lying and all guile, we will never stand with the Lord on Mount Zion, for it is written of that number that " no lie or guile was found in their mouth" (Rev.14:1, 5). People are so foolish to give Satan power over their lives in this way. So be radical in this area.

To be truthful does not mean however, that you have to reveal all your secrets to others. No. Even God has secrets that He does not reveal to everyone; and you are not better than God. So you can keep your secrets. But what you speak must always be the truth. And you must never seek to give others the impression that you are more spiritual than you really are. If others get that impression, on their own, you can't help it. But you must never do or say anything that gives others that impression.

Remember however to be honest with us, your parents always, for we are here to help you and to guide you aright. And you know that we love you and will always be loyal to you and keep your secrets.

Proverbs for Young Men

Here are some verses from Proverbs (in the Living Bible) that are really good for all young men to bear in mind always:

Proverbs 2:16-20: Only wisdom from the Lord can save a man from the flattery of immoral girls; these girls have abandoned their husbands and flouted God's laws. Their houses lie along the road to hell and death. The men who enter them are doomed. None of these will ever be the same again. Follow the steps of a godly man instead and stay on the right path.

Proverbs 3:3-6: Never forget to be truthful and kind. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart. If you want favour with both God and man and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely. Don't ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

Proverbs 4:23-27: Above all guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life. Spurn the careless kiss of an immoral girl. Stay far away from her. Look straight ahead. Don't even turn your head to look. Watch your step. Stick to the straight path and be safe. Don't be side-tracked. Pull back your foot from danger.

Proverbs 5:3-14: The lips of an immoral girl are as sweet as honey; and smooth flattery is her stock in trade. But afterwards only a bitter conscience will be left to you, sharp as a double-edged sword. She will lead you down to death and hell - for she does not know the path of life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn't even realize where it leads. Never forget what I say, young men: run from her. Don't go near her house, lest you fall to her temptation and lose your honour and give the remainder of your life to the cruel and merciless; lest you groan in anguish and shame when sexually transmitted diseases consume your body, and you say, "Oh, if only I had listened! If only I had not demanded my own way. Oh, why wouldn't I take advice? Why was I so stupid? For now I must face public disgrace."

Proverbs 6:20-29: Young man, obey your father and your mother. Tie their instructions around your finger so you won't forget. Take heed to their advice. Every day and all night long their counsel will lead you and save you from harm; when you wake up in the morning, let their instruction guide you into the new day. For their advice is a beam of light directed into the dark corners of your mind, to warn you of danger and to give you a good life. Their counsel will keep you away from cheap girls, with all their flatteries. Don't lust for their beauty. Don't let their coyness seduce you; for such girls will bring a man to poverty and it may cost him his very life. Can a man hold fire in his chest and not be burned? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who commits adultery. He shall not go unpunished for his sin.

Proverbs 6:32-35: The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul. Wounds and constant disgrace will be the lot of such a man.

Proverbs 7:1-27: Follow my advice, my son; always keep it in mind and stick to it. Guard my words as your most precious possession. Write them down and also keep them deep within your heart. Love wisdom like a sweetheart. Let it hold you back from having affairs with girls - from listening to their flattery. One day I saw a simple-minded lad, a young man lacking common sense, walking at twilight down the street to the house of this wayward girl. She approached him, saucy and pert, and dressed seductively. She put her arms around him and kissed him, and with a saucy look she said, "I was just coming to look for you and here you are! Come home with me and I'll fix you a wonderful dinner, and after that - let's take our fill of love." So she seduced him with her pretty speech, her coaxing and her wheedling, until he yielded to her. He couldn't resist her flattery. He followed her as an ox going to the butcher, or as a stag that is trapped, waiting to be killed with an arrow through its heart. He was as a bird flying into a snare, not knowing the fate awaiting it there. Listen to me, young men, and not only listen but obey. Don't let your desires get out of hand. Don't let yourself think about her. Don't go near her. Stay away from where she walks, lest she tempt you and seduce you. If you want to find the road to hell, look for her house.

Chapter 18
Chapter 18

The Flesh and the Old Man

Jesus had a will of His own as a Man. but He never did His own will. He crucified His self-will at all times, and so the Divine nature ruled His life. We are given the Divine nature when we are born again. But whether that Divine nature within us is expressed or suppressed, depends on whether we crucify the flesh or not. This is the conflict between the Holy Spirit and the flesh, referred to in Galatians 5:17.

Many confuse the flesh with the old man. The old man and the new man are the natures - the first is human (Adamic) and the second is Divine. The flesh however is a storehouse of desires that tempts us. These desires are like burglars coming and knocking (temptation) at your door (your will) in order to enter your house (your heart). The old, unfaithful servant (old man, Adamic nature) used to open the door for them. God has now put that servant to death (Romans 6:6), and put a new servant within (the new man, the Divine nature). The burglars (flesh) however remain the same. But if the new man doesn't eat properly, he won't be strong enough to keep the door shut. Then the believer falls into sin, even when he doesn't want to.

Jesus "learnt obedience" as a Man (Heb.5:8), because He could not possibly learn obedience as God in heaven - just like kings cannot learn obedience. But Jesus did not have to acquire the Divine nature like we have to. He had that nature from birth. But because He faithfully crucified the flesh, He grew in wisdom - that is in the knowledge of how to handle various situations and overcome various temptations as a Man. This is what is meant when it says: " Jesus learnt obedience". For example: Jesus was not tempted in the sexual area until He was about 12 or 13 years old. So He could not possibly have learnt obedience or put His self-will to death in that area until that age. But that doesn't mean that He was impure in that area until then. No. He was always perfectly pure. A student may not pass in calculus until he reaches the 11th grade. But that does not mean that he failed in calculus. No. He had not studied calculus until he reached the 11 th grade.

Looking at Jesus' life and comparing ourselves with Him and with Him alone, is the only way to remain humble at all times.

But we must also bear in mind that Jesus in His Person was always God on earth. That is why He accepted worship, which we cannot. For example: If you became an ant in order to help the ants, you would still be yourself as a person. But you would have all the limitations, temptations, resources and abilities of an ant. Your person would not change, but your capabilities would.

It is best not to analyse the nature of Jesus. It is enough to know that He was tempted like us and overcame - and we can follow in His steps and overcome too. We can digest our food even if we cannot explain how our digestive system works. Those who analyse these matters go astray into error. All you need to do is flee from temptation and obey God's commandments.

Humility and the Fear Of God

Humility and the fear of God always go together (See Prov.22:4). The mark of a genuinely humble person is that he fears God as well. And the proof that we genuinely fear God is that we will have low thoughts about ourselves.

Jesus was filled with the Spirit of the fear of God, and this made Him " quick of scent in the fear of God, so that He never judged by the impressions that He received through what He saw and heard " (Isa.11:2, 3). When we are not humble and do not fear God, we will be quick to form (and even to express) opinions about other people and about various situations, which we have either heard of, or seen. One mark of godliness is that we are "quick to hear and slow to speak" (Jas.1:19), and even slower to form an opinion, and almost totally unwilling to give an opinion, until we have first heard what God has to say to us.

If you are very keen on doing something, you can easily deceive yourself that it is the will of God, by praying about it briefly just to ease your conscience, and then saying to yourself that you feel "at peace in your heart" about doing it - and go ahead and do it! That way you can miss the will of God completely. Remember: The more important the decision you have to make, the more you must wait on God before you act. And do consult us, your parents, before you finally decide.

Discipline of Listening to God

The flesh is basically lazy and pleasure-loving and comfort-loving. Don't be deceived by it. You must refuse the impressions that come to you through your senses, when seeking to find God's will. There is as much difference between your way of thinking and God's thoughts as there is between earth and heaven (Isa.55:8, 9). God's way of doing things is far higher than yours. That is why God wants you to submit to Him - to get his best.

As a student at college, you may not have much time to spend in prayer. But you must have the attitude of waiting on the Lord in making your decisions. And so discipline yourself to spend a few minutes with God every day - preferably first thing in the morning. If that is not possible in the morning, then at some time during the day. Otherwise, the impressions that you get can lead you astray from God's will for your life.

God wants to communicate with you every day. This is the message that comes across from the first page of the Bible, where it says: " On the first day, God spoke.... On the second day, God spoke.......On the third,........fourth,........fifth and sixth days, God spoke ". Something happened each day when God spoke and the final result was " Very Good". So can it be with your life too, if you listen to God every day. Jesus said, " Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt.4:3). If you do not put God first in your life every day, it will be very easy to backslide.

By "hearing God", I don't mean reading the Bible, but rather listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit within your conscience throughout the day, so that you do what pleases Him and avoid anything that displeases Him.

God always wants to answer our prayers. But we must earnestly wait on Him for an answer. Sometimes his answer may be ''No." Sometimes it may be "Wait". Like the red, yellow and green traffic lights, God's answer may be "No", "Wait" or "Yes".

Our spiritual ears can also become deaf if we " lay heavy burdens on others (make demands on them), or point accusing fingers at others, or speak evil of others " (See Isa.58:9). We must avoid these evils. Then we will be able to hear God clearly.

Prayer is not only speaking to God but listening to Him as well. And listening is more important than speaking to Him. Consider: If you were speaking with an older and more godly person on the phone, you would listen much more than you speak. So must it be in true prayer - you must listen to God much more than you speak to Him.

Chapter 19
Chapter 19

Friendship, Counselling and Conversations

When moving with your friends you must have the courage to break away from them if you discover that they are going to questionable places. Even if that means having to be alone in your room, break away from such friends at the right time. Ask God for the courage to say "No" to them. Most young people have no restraint when they are on their own. So be careful of the company you keep.

In Titus 2:6 (Living Bible), we read two exhortations given to young men: "(1) Behave wisely and (2) Take life seriously". Keep those two exhortations in your mind at all times. The shallow, jovial life that most "Christian" young people live nowadays, with a superficial dash of religiosity, is going to bring them a lot of regret in eternity. Don't be influenced by the standards of the Christians around you. You must influence them to greater seriousness, greater sacrifice, and greater godliness. Take this seriously.

Don't waste your time trying to convince people who do not want to accept the standards of God's Word. Those who want to do their own will and seek their own happiness are doomed to a life of misery on earth and to hell thereafter. We cannot force such people to give up their self-willed ways. What they are seeking for is sanction for their sinful ways. Their unwillingness to accept what God's Word teaches is due to the low standards in the churches, which has resulted in people growing up without any fear of God. Unless disobedience to God's Word is seen as utterly evil and Satanic, people will play around with sin forever. Those who are sincere however will be delivered by God from the clutches of the Evil One. The others will be destroyed by Satan.

Be wise in your conversations with people - especially with Christian Pharisees! Steer clear of all useless conversation. Some people may be eager to know private details about you and your family. Don't satisfy their curiosity. Just tell them, "I would rather not talk about those things". Jesus told us to be " harmless as doves as well as wise as serpents".

And never counsel girls . Seek fellowship with brothers more than with sisters.

Beware of those who may try to trap you in some way. Be careful what you write in your letters. People can preserve your letters and even accuse you with them one day, if they fall out with you. Don't be gullible. Be careful in every matter.

I am concerned that in your pursuit of your degree, you should not miss out spiritually. Your Christian faith must never be relegated to a mere appendix in your life. It must always be central to everything that you do. Most believers today do their own thing most of the time and attach a little bit of religion to their lives on Sundays, to ease their conscience. Thus they feel that they have given God His due. What an insult that is to the One Who gave everything for us.

You must live each day remembering that you will one day have either joy or regret over the decisions that you made that day, the priorities that you set for your life that day, and the information that you allowed to enter into your mind that day (particularly through your eyes, through TV etc.). Read your Bible every day, and let your room-mates in your hostel see that you are different from them.

"Live in the fear of the Lord the whole day long" (Prov.23:17-KJV). Don't have lifelong regrets because of one careless slip-up somewhere.

We, as your parents, want to see you wholehearted for the Lord always. That is our only desire and longing and we pray for that constantly. We believe that God will hear our prayers and answer us. We have no desire to see any of you rich or famous or accomplishing anything great in the eyes of this world. We only want to see you as flaming witnesses for Jesus always.

Another Jesus

Paul said that he gained Christ only after he had given up everything in this world and counted it all as "rubbish" (Phil.3:8). Jesus said that in order to buy the pearl of great price, the merchant had to sell all that he had (Mt.13:46). How then have many "Christians" today managed to gain Christ without giving up their attachment to everything worldly? Many "believers" today retain their worldly ambitions and their love for pleasure and ease and comfort and still claim to have gained Christ. That must then be " another Jesus" that they gained (2 Cor. 11:4) - and not the One that Paul gained. All the great things that this world offers are rubbish compared to Christ. My prayer for you is that you will see this clearly.

Never esteem any of the following as great in God's eyes: Your intelligence, your health, your good looks, your gifts and abilities, your studying in a good college, your academic accomplishments, the esteem in which others hold you etc. Think of the people who are not as clever or smart as you or who have not had the opportunities you have had. Remember that you are no better in God's eyes than any of them. The only thing of value that you have is the measure in which you have partaken of the Divine nature. I pray that you will be gripped by this truth all your days.

Enduring Faith

Without faith it is impossible to please God, no matter what else you may have (Heb.11:6). Eve's failure in the garden was a failure of faith. If she had only trusted in the perfect love and wisdom of God, when she was tempted by the attractiveness of that tree, even if she could not understand why a loving God would forbid her from eating it, then she would not have sinned. But once Satan had made her doubt God's love, she fell very quickly. There are many things that God has forbidden for us too, and many prayers of ours that He does not see fit to grant. At such times we must trust in His perfect love and wisdom. Jesus trusted the Father on the cross even when He was forsaken. He did not say, "O God, why have You forsaken Me?" He said, "MY God.....", meaning thereby, "Even if I can't understand why You have forsaken Me, You are still my God". There was no reply from heaven to Jesus' query. But He died trusting. He said, "Father I commit My spirit into Your hands". That is what it means to endure in faith until the end.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had requested for permission to sift him. This was similar to the way Satan asked God for permission to sift Job (in the Old Testament). Satan cannot do anything to us (even tempt us), without God's permission. But when Peter was going to be sifted, Jesus assured him that He would pray for him that his faith would not fail (Lk.22:31, 32). That is all that matters. Jesus does not pray that we should not be tempted, or that our health or wealth or job should not fail, but only that our FAITH should not fail.

Faith is therefore our most important treasure, in Jesus' eyes. If we have faith, then we will never be discouraged, even if we fail miserably, like Peter did. We will jump up (not just get up but jump up) and overcome Satan by the word of our testimony concerning the blood of the Lamb that cleanses us thoroughly when we turn from our sin and confess it to God (Rev.12:11). We must tell Satan that we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and that God does not remember any of our past sins any more (Heb.8:12). We have to tell that to Satan that with our mouths, since he cannot hear our thoughts. Thus we overcome him and he will flee from us.

"Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise. Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me. He will bring me out to the light. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover him who said to me, `Where is the Lord your God?' At that time he will be trampled down like the mire of the streets (under our feet)." (Micah 7:8-10).

We must boldly say at all times, " The Lord is my helper. I will never be afraid (of any man or demon or circumstance or anything) , for God has promised never to leave me nor forsake me" (Heb.13:6,5). That is the bold confession of our faith.

Guard Your Mind

You must be alert about temptations wherever you go. Provocative television-images and pictures and articles in books and magazines can be a great snare. Remember that whatever you once choose to place into your mind will remain there forever. You can be forgiven if you repent. But you can never erase what you absorb into our memory. You can only hope to have it pushed down to the bottom of your memory's storehouse, so that it doesn't come back to harass you in your dreams and thoughts. And that pushing down can take place only as you fill up the top levels of your memory's storehouse with God's Word.

I would suggest that you discipline yourself to read at least one chapter from a good Christian book (you can start with my books) every week and listen to at least one message of mine (on tape) every week, and seek fellowship with at least one believer once or twice a week.

Don't ever be enslaved to anyone in your thinking. To glorify God, you must do well in your studies. Let me repeat that there is no virtue in going to church-meetings if you neglect your studies. Fellowship however is important - but that is best obtained informally with one or two believers, and not necessarily by attending a meeting.

Chapter 20
Chapter 20

Faith

Can `victory' be claimed by faith like 'salvation'?

1 John 5:4 says, " This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" - and "the world" is defined by the Word as " the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 Jn.2:16). So that teaches us that victory over all these is by faith. But what does this faith mean? It is the total leaning of our personality upon God in absolute confidence in His perfect love, wisdom and power. Believing is the same as receiving - as John 1:12 makes plain. It is not intellectual faith. So to trust God means that we receive (accept) His will as the best for us. That means we choose to deny our own will. That is what is meant by "crucifying the flesh" (Gal.5:24). To do this (denying our own will), we need grace to help us. But it all originates from faith. If we don't believe that God's will is the best, we will not even want to put our own will to death. This applies, for example when watching TV. Do you believe that what Jesus would do in such situations is the best - that is, not watch useless or sexually suggestive programs and movies? Or do you believe that what pleases your lusts is the best? That depends on whether you believe that God's will is the best for you. Without faith there can be no victory.

Think always of Jesus Whom you have to follow. Never forget that your flesh is weak. Jesus cried out for help constantly from His Father. You must do the same. Remember that the Name of Jesus is a tower into which you can always retreat when attacked (Prov.18:10). And in that Name you can ask your Father for anything, if ever you are in any difficulty in any place on the face of the earth.

Press on to Perfection

Romans 7:14-25 is an important passage for those seeking to press on to perfection. Paul is speaking there about his experience as a born-again Christian, for an unconverted man does not say, " I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man" (Rom.7:22).

Paul's letter to the Romans is written in a sequence describing " the gospel as the power of God for salvation" (Rom.1:16), beginning from Chapter 1. After speaking about justification by faith in chapters 3, 4 and 5, Paul speaks about victory over sin in Romans 6. Then Paul goes on to the next stage in chapter. 7. He is not going back at that point to an unconverted period in his life. No. He is continuing his description of the gospel. Now he talks about the struggle that a person who is interested in pressing on to perfection finds in his inner life. Consciously he has chosen to do only God's will hereafter. He desires victory and has found grace to help him in time of need. Yet he finds two things: (i) that in an unwatchful moment he still falls in an area over which he already has light (conscious sin); and (ii) that sometimes he has fallen short of the Christian standard and realized it only after he has fallen (a new area where he did not have light before falling - unconscious sin).

The one who is not interested in total perfection does not have such a struggle, for he has stopped at Romans 5. It is the one who is seeking total victory over sin (Rom.6:14), who finds this struggle and says to himself, " Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this sinful body that brings me into spiritual death again and again ?" (Rom.7:24)

Those who do not acknowledge such a struggle are being dishonest about their inner lives. This is what gives us great hope that even when we have fallen in a moment of weakness, although that is a sin that we must repent of, and forsake, and ask Christ to cleanse in His blood, yet it is not something that we would have consciously chosen. Our subsequent regret over it shows that very clearly. Because we continue to hate such acts of sin and mourn over them, one day we will get victory over them as well.

Read Romans 7 carefully and ask God to give you light on it. Romans 7:1-13 speaks about being free from the Law as our guide. Now we are married to Christ, so that we live by a higher standard than the Law, but not with a legalistic attitude towards God's commandments. We " serve in newness of Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom.7:6).

There is no victory for those who are dishonest about their struggles. It is not primarily a question about understanding Romans 7 correctly, but rather a question of being absolutely honest about one's struggles. I would urge you to avoid all those who are not honest about their inner struggles - for they are hypocrites. You must be discerning. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Remember that the most important thing that God requires from you is honesty. That is the first step to purity.

Fear of God

It is very easy when you are young to think that you know what is best for yourself. When any young person loses the fear of doing foolish things, he will do many foolish things. The only way to be saved from that is: (1) By preserving yourself at all times in the fear of God, and (2) by being humble enough to acknowledge your weakness and crying out to God for help.

Think of Joseph as an example of a young 18-year old who was faithful to God in a strange land, He was armed with the fear of God - and that kept him from Satan's snare. May God preserve you also in the same way, everywhere you go. Joseph's example shows us that it is possible for even a young 18 year old boy to stand true to the Lord, even when:

(a) He was living in the midst of an immoral society that has no standards;

(b) He was tempted by a woman day after day;

(c) His parents were hundreds of miles away, and thought he was dead;

(d) He did not have a Bible or any godly literature to encourage him;

(e) He had not received the power of the Holy Spirit;

(f) He did not have any believers to fellowship with;

(g) He did not have any spiritual meetings that he could go to.

But what he did have was the fear of God that had been planted in him by his father Jacob, during the first 17 years of his life that he spent at home. And the fear of God is enough to keep any young man from sin, even today.

Complacency and Misplaced Priority

The atmosphere in colleges today is so evil that unless you are radical against sin, you will go astray. After a year or so of not falling into any serious sin, one can begin to imagine that one has become an expert overcomer. It is then, when one becomes self-confident, that failure comes. There can be two distractions to your studies: (1) Girls and (2) An unbalanced interest in extra-curricular activities, which may even include attending Christian meetings.

The first danger is an obvious one. Yet there have been hundreds of thousands of young men through the ages, who have ruined their whole lives and careers through being careless with girls. One careless mistake is often enough to put an end to your entire career. If you recognize this, you will be extremely cautious at all times, in this area.

The second danger is not such an obvious one, because it can appear as though you are honouring God when you attend many meetings; and you can assume that if you honour God, He will honour you too. It is true that God always honours those who honour Him. But if you neglect your studies, because you attend too many meetings, and then expect God to help you in your examinations, because you claim some promise of Scripture, that would be as foolish as claiming Psalm 91:12 (which Satan suggested that Jesus claim) and jumping off the roof of the temple. That is tempting God. It is the same type of folly as practised by those who don't take medicines when they are sick, and want God to heal them without medicine. No farmer can expect a harvest through prayer alone, if he has not laboured to sow seed at sowing time!

To put God first is always right. But to put multitudes of Christian meetings first is not the same as putting God first. For example, if Jesus had some work to finish in the carpenter shop at Nazareth, in order to fulfil a customer's order, I am sure He would have even missed a synagogue-meeting, in order to have the item ready for the customer on time. That is what it means to be faithful in little things - and that is true spirituality. Yet we also know that Jesus always put His Father first. So we can learn spirituality from Jesus' example. If we follow our own reasoning however, we will end up being religious and not spiritual.

The mistakes that other young men make should be a warning to you to be careful, so that you don't end up doing the same foolish things yourself. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others and does not make the same mistakes himself. May the Lord preserve you for Himself alone and may He make you a blessing to others around you.

Chapter 21
Chapter 21

Faith and Reason

Prayer is easiest for those who are like little children, for prayer is an acknowledgement of our helplessness and our impotence to God. Clever adults find it difficult to acknowledge that. That is why Jesus said that we must be like little children. The more we depend on our reason and our intellect, the less we will pray, and the more we will question why God does things in a way that our reason cannot understand.

The obedience that God asks of us is not "the obedience of reason", but " the obedience of faith" (Rom.1:5). God gave no reasons to Adam as to why He did not want Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was enough for Adam to know that God loved him and that therefore God's commands (even when unexplainable by reason) were the very best for him. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding " (Prov.3:5). So when Adam failed, it was primarily a failure of faith in God's love and God's wisdom. This is where we fail too.

If we believe that God loves us intensely, and that He knows what is best for us - better than we can ever know - and that He is almighty enough to order all events on earth, then we will joyfullyobey all His commands, yield everything to Him to do His will alone hereafter in our lives, pray even when we don't seem to get any immediate answers, and submit to everything He ordains for us, without any questions. If we don't have faith in God's wisdom, love and power, then we will do none of these.

If we are like little children, we can come to God in simple faith and receive the fullness of His Spirit into our hearts easily (Lk.11:13). All we need is a clear conscience (with all known sin confessed to God and man), a hunger and thirst for the fullness of the Spirit, a total surrender of every known area of our lives to Him, and faith that our Loving Father will certainly give us what we ask for. Then we can ask - and believe that God has granted us what we asked for, even if we don't have any immediate feelings or sensations. The external manifestations will come later. So be like a little child.

Faith - Steadfast Confidence in God

When we are baptized, we have confidence that the person who immerses us into the water will not drown us but will raise us up from the water too. This is how we must have faith (confidence) in God too in all situations of life. When He arranges a situation, in which we have to die to self, or in which we are being "crucified" by others, we must see God Himself beyond the human instruments that He uses. The pure in heart, Jesus said, would see only God (Matt.5:8) - and not any human instruments. When we see only the people who crucify us, that would indicate that our hearts are not pure. Then we will have complaints against those people. But when our hearts are pure, we will see God alone, and then we can have the confidence (just as in water-baptism) that He Who allows us to be immersed into death will raise us up too. " If we die with Christ we will be raised up by God as Christ was raised up " (2 Tim.2:11). Then we die in faith (in confidence in God). Then we can enter into a glorious resurrection-life. Otherwise we will always live the same old defeated Adamic life that we have always lived. When we refuse to die to Self, it indicates that we don't have faith (confidence) in God.

The man of faith is the single-minded man, as we read in James 1:6-8. Such a man has only one goal in life - to please God and to glorify Him. Only such a man can be said to live by faith - for he lives recognizing the fact that the things that are unseen alone have eternal value. In other words, He believes what God's Word says. Many "believers" believe in Jesus only because they don't want to go to Hell. But they don't LIVE by faith. They are not convinced that what God says in His Word is true. They don't believe that they will have to give an account to God for everything that they have done and spoken in their lives. They don't believe that if they live to please themselves, and to enjoy the pleasures of this world and to pursue after money, they will have regrets for all eternity after they leave this world. The rich man (that Jesus spoke of) who died and went to Hell, had regrets as soon as he died, and wanted someone to go and tell his brothers not to make the same mistake that he had made in his earthly life of not living in daily repentance (Lk.16:28,30). We are all on probation here on earth and God is testing us to see whether, like the animals, we will live for the dust of earth, or whether as sons of God, we will live for the things that have eternal value - a life characterised by goodness, love, absolute purity and humility, etc. May the Lord give you grace to live for the things that have eternal value.

God is on the Side of Underdogs

Those who can't seem to attain to the high standards preached in the church, despite their best efforts, need never feel discouraged, because Jesus came to help the sick ones and not the healthy ones. Throughout the Bible, we see that God has a care for the weak and the helpless, for strangers, widows and the fatherless. Jesus cared especially for adulteresses, thieves (the tax-collectors and the thief on the cross), lepers, the demon-possessed, and the outcasts of Jewish society like the Gentiles (e.g. the Roman centurion and the Syrophenician woman). Today also, He cares for those who have repeatedly failed, and who sit in the back-row in the meetings of the church (because they are ashamed of themselves).

In 1 Samuel 16 we read that Jesse thought so little of his youngest son David, that he did not even call him, when Samuel came to select one of his sons to be king. But God had His eye on David and chose him. And even after David fell so deeply into sin (adultery and murder), the Lord still did not forsake him, because David repented in deep sorrow. In fact, God used even his failure, for there would have been no Psalm 51 (that has blessed so many millions) if it had not been for David's failure.

Jesus aligns Himself with the ones who are despised and considered unspiritual by others, and with those who have failed in their spiritual life, if they repent. Peter could become a compassionate apostle only because he failed so badly - denying the Lord thrice. Therefore he always looked on other sinners ever afterwards with compassion and not with hardness like the Pharisees did. Only such men can qualify to be apostles. All this is so that it might be made evident that Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, He has chosen some of the world's greatest sinners to be His greatest apostles, in these past twenty centuries. So there is hope for all.

God is Faithful

Ever since I made a transaction with the Lord many years ago saying, "Lord, I will look after Your family and You look after mine", He has been utterly faithful to care for all of us. So I believe that the Lord will take care of all four of you, my sons - spiritually, physically, financially, in the matters of employment and marriage also (when that time comes), and in all other matters as well, till the end of your lives. God honours those who honour Him (1 Sam.2:30); and the children of the godly are blessed (Prov.20:7)

Many years ago, God gave Mom and me (separately) the same promise that "all our children will be discipled by the Lord and their wellbeing will be great" (Isa.54:13). And I say, as Paul once did: "I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told" (Acts 27:25). So I have no fear for any of you, because I know the Lord will keep His Word. As parents, we have done our part. The Lord will certainly do His.

God's Word promises that He " will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus " (Phil.4:19). There is not a single need that we can ever have - physical, material, financial, emotional, intellectual or spiritual - that is excluded from that promise. Every need will be supplied by God. God does not give us everything that we want , but only everything that we need. The only condition for this promise to be fulfilled is mentioned in Matthew 6:33 - " seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first". Our Heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matt.6:8, 32). So, if we put God's kingdom and holiness above everything else as first priority in our lives, then all that we need will automatically be provided for us, even without our asking.

Chapter 22
Chapter 22

Living by the Word of God

Don't lose the discipline of beginning each day with a few minutes of talking to God in prayer and listening to Him. You will find the day goes much better, when you start it like that. Maintain that discipline. If you miss doing it first thing in the morning, then find time for it some time later in the day. Carry a small New Testament with you in your pocket. You can then read portions from it now and then. And if possible, try and listen to at least one tape of my message every week.

There is an answer and a solution to every one of our problems found somewhere in God's Word. Jesus said that man must live byevery Word of God. So if we don't know the word of God, we won't live - we will die spiritually. It doesn't take much time to shoot a 10-second prayer to God for a word according to our need. But sometimes that can save us much futility and despair. The children of Adam live only by what their five senses tell them. We live however by the Word of God primarily.

In every situation we must be " quick to hear (God) and slow to (open our mouth and) speak, slow to anger... " (James 1:19). Jesus saw the money changers in the temple every year for 18 years (from the age of 12 to 30). But He never got agitated by them. He waited until the Father told Him to do something about it. Then He acted. He restrained Himself until then.

We read in the Bible that, "God sent His Word and healed them" (Psa. 107:20). Healing too comes from God's Word. God sent His Word and released Joseph from prison (Psa. 105:20) and Jonah from the fish's belly (Jon.2:10). God's Word brought order into chaos at the beginning of creation (Gen.1:1-3). It can do the same for us too. So never be so busy that you have no time to meditate on God's Word. We do not always receive something new each time we read the Bible. But reading it is like storing data in a computer. At our time of need the Spirit of God will dip into that stored-up data and bring to our memory the appropriate word for our situation.

May the words of this lovely hymn be your daily prayer:

"Fill Thou my life O Lord my God

In every part with praise

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and Thy ways."


The Lord told the leader at Philadelphia (Rev.3:11) to hold fast what he had, lest he lose his crown. We must be alert at all times, so that we don't lose ground spiritually, and lose what the Lord has worked in us. When we are busy (with our study or our work), it is not possible for our minds to think about the Lord or the Scriptures. But that does not matter - our hearts can still be alert to hear the Lord's voice. The bride says, " I slept, but my heart was awake, and my beloved spoke to me" (Song of Sol.5:2, 3). You must be constantly alert to hear what the Lord has to say to you, especially when He wants to warn you in advance of any dangers along the way. God allows our earthly lives to be busy from morning to night with a purpose - for thus we are kept from many temptations. It is when people are idle that they are tempted more to sin.

New Covenant Perfection

"Perfection" in the New Testament means " having the same attitude that Christ had" (Phil.2:5). This is the goal towards which we are to strive daily: To have the same attitude as Jesus had to sin, to His disciples, to His enemies, to sinners, to women, to material things, to His profession, to the cares of this world, to pleasure, to sport, to everything.

Basically we seek our own gain and comfort and pleasure in everything. This is the way to a miserable existence, where we do not grow in grace. There is only one way to grow in grace into the perfection of having the mind of Christ, and that is by putting to death these natural tendencies of the flesh that we have inherited. This is why the cross has to be central at all times in our lives.

Here are 6 ways in which Satan tries to make us seek our own:

(1) Pride - in our abilities or our accomplishments

(2) Sexual impurity - beginning in our thoughts

(3) Hatred - bitterness, revengeful thoughts, etc.

(4) Compromise - worldliness (love of money) and dishonesty for material gain

(5) Fear, anxiety and tension - concerning the future etc.

(6) Legalism - Phariseeism.
Jesus never fell in any of these areas, and neither need we. ­

But God did allow Satan to attack Jesus' physical body on the cross - and in the process Satan was defeated. Jesus' heel was bruised by Satan, but Satan's head was crushed (Gen.3:15). God likewise allowed Satan to afflict Paul's body with a physical ailment (a thorn in the flesh). But God used that to crush Satan's head (pride) in Paul's heart (2 Cor.12:7). God is always on our side against Satan, and the Lord will always lead us in triumph, if we humbly submit to Him in all our ways.

Attitude of Gratitude

God preserved my life when I was tossed from my moped onto the railway track the other day (August 13, 1993). The person operating the railway-gate was a novice and lowered the second bar before I had crossed it and so it hit me on the chest and knocked me down. I lay on the railway track, unconscious for a while - I don't know for how long. Someone picked me up before any train came along. I now feel like one who has come back from the dead (for my fall could have been fatal). It was a fresh reminder to me that I owe my life to God for the rest of my days. I cannot spend my time or energy or money as I like. I cannot read what I like. I cannot speak whatever I like. Everything has to be determined by what will glorify God. Such a life will not be a strain to live (as Satan would have us believe), but will be the most glorious life anyone could ever live - for that is how our Lord lived. You also have had experiences on the roads there when you could have had fatal accidents. But the angels of God protected you. So your debt to God is similar. Praise the Lord for preserving our lives. May we live as those who have been raised from the dead.

My hand and shoulder that were sprained after the accident, came 95% back to normal, within 3 weeks after the accident. That was a miracle, for which I thank God. One of the things that I learnt during those 3 weeks was not to take the ordinary things of life for granted - even the ability to raise my hands when praising God, which I could not do during those 3 weeks. For the first time in 54 years, I thanked God for the privilege of being able to raise both my hands when praising Him. Until then I had taken that action for granted. That made me thankful for the use of many other parts of my body as well - like my eyes, ears and tongue etc.

We must learn to be thankful to God for everything. Jonah's prayer while inside the fish's belly is most instructive (Jonah 2). Even though that was a cramped place, with the fish's stomach-acids falling on him, yet Jonah thanked the Lord for allowing him to be there. It was only when he began to thank the Lord, that the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on to dry land (Read Jonah 2:9,10 carefully). So don't ever complain about your house or food or circumstances. Be thankful. Many children are not thankful for their parents and their home, until they go out into the wide world and discover how tough life is. A spirit of thankfulness can deliver you from many prisons - as Jonah was delivered.

New Covenant Applications of Old Covenant Sacrifices

There were five offerings that God commanded the Israelites to bring. These are described in the first five chapters of Leviticus (one offering in each chapter). They are:

(1) The burnt offering: symbolising Jesus giving His body completely to the Father, in the same way as we are told to give our bodies to God in Romans 12:1.

(2) The grain offering: the only bloodless offering, symbolising Jesus giving Himself to us as the
Bread of life that we are to feed on.

(3) The peace offering: symbolising Jesus bringing peace between God and men and between man and man in the church, through giving Himself. We too must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of peace between ourselves and others.

(4) The sin offering: symbolising Jesus dying for our sins. (Sin is coming short of God's standards, missing the mark - see Rom.3:23).

(5) The guilt offering: symbolising Jesus bearing our guilt. Sin is so serious a thing that God designated two offerings under the old covenant for it - one for sin and one for guilt (even though we would think that they both refer to the same thing).

If you read Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27 and 5:4, 15, 17, you will notice that the provisions made by God were only for unintentional sin under the Old Testament Law. Unintentional sin was sin that was done either unconsciously or under the provocation of the moment (like a sudden slip-up in lusting with the eyes or in an angry word spoken), that was not pre-planned or pre-meditated. Sins committed that were planned were much more serious. There was no provision under the Law for intentional sin.

But now under grace, there IS provision for forgiveness for intentional sin as well. Otherwise we would all be guilty. But many have taken advantage of this provision, and that is why 90% of Christians do not live even at the level of holiness that the old-covenant Jews had.

Even bitter words are often premeditated. God sees the intention more than the action. In Hebrews 10:26-29 it says that if we keep on sinning intentionally , there will be no more sacrifice available for our sin, because we will then be treating the blood of Christ as a cheap thing. So we must take every sin seriously, and perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor.7:1).

Chapter 23
Chapter 23

Glory Belongs to the Lord Alone

If you want to follow the Lord, you must be willing to be " of no reputation" in the eyes of men, as Jesus was (Phil.2:5 - KJV). From a human point of view, there was nothing attractive in Jesus that would draw men to Him (Isa.53:2). All that this world considers great is an abomination before God (Lk.16:15). When we are proud of what we are as human beings, with our natural gifts and talents, God cannot manifest His power through us. Paul said, " I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ's power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities " (2 Cor.12:9 - Living). That is our calling. Never show off or be proud of your own talents and gifts and abilities. Instead let others see you as a weak human being (as a lamb), but bold and powerful as a disciple of Jesus (as a lion).

There is a constant covering of reproach over the true church also - so that we are misunderstood and criticised even by other Christians. But underneath that covering, there is a glory - we live a life that pleases God, in which we overcome our lusts and put Satan under our feet. We should never desire the praise of men (or be moved by it), for that is rubbish.

Jesus told His seventy disciples, "Do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Lk.10:20). We should not rejoice in: (a) what we are; (b) what we have done; or (c) what we can do. But we should rejoice in: (a) Who the Lord is; (b) what the Lord has done; and (c) what the Lord will do. When we rejoice in what we are capable of, we ourselves get the glory and that makes us look superior to other believers. This is Phariseeism. We are then "rejoicing in the works of our hands" (Acts 7:41) - whether that work be casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching the Word, writing an article, being hospitable, cooking a good meal, driving a car well, or doing some earthly task in an excellent way etc., There are numerous ways to get glory for ourselves. But it is all idolatry. When we rejoice only in what God has done, however, that keeps us humble, and we are on an equal level with all other believers, and thus the Body of Christ can be built.

Humility and Grace

No-one can obey the New Testament commandments without getting grace from God. Some may be able to keep the first nine of the ten commandments in the Law without grace. But the tenth commandment - " never to lust after what is not yours" - no-one can keep without God's grace. And no-one can rise to the heights of new-covenant life (as described in Matthew 5 to 7) without grace. And God gives His grace only to the humble (1 Pet.5:5).

Humility is one of the virtues that is most easily counterfeited. True humility is not something that others see in us. It is what God sees in us - and it is inward. It is exemplified in Jesus' life. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that Jesus renounced His privileges and rights as God and became a servant, and was willing to accept even crucifixion from men's hands. We are to follow Him in that path of humility.

Jesus humbled himself in 3 steps.

1. He became a Man.

2. He became a servant.

3. On the cross, He was willing to be treated like a criminal.

There we see the three secrets of the Christian life: HUMILITY, HUMILITY and HUMILITY.

The angels must have looked on in wonder when Jesus lived for 33 years on earth and when they saw Him serving others so humbly, and patiently enduring suffering, insult and injury. They had been used to worshipping Him for years in heaven. But when they saw His conduct on earth, they learnt something more about the nature of God - His lowliness and humility - that they had never seen or understood all the time that Jesus was in heaven. Now God wants to show the angels in heaven that same spirit of Christ through us in the church (as it says in Eph.3:10). What do the angels see in us and in our conduct now? Does our conduct bring glory to God?

Remember that humility is the greatest virtue of all. Humility acknowledges that all that we are and have are the gifts of God. Humility makes us value and esteem all human beings, especially the weak, the uncultured, the retarded and the poor. Only on that soil of humility can the fruit of the Spirit and the virtues of Christ grow. So you must live in a constant judgment of yourself, to ensure that no poison of high thoughts or honour-seeking or taking the glory that should be given to God, ever enters into your heart at any time. Meditate much on the humility of Jesus. That is my most important exhortation to you.

Preaching the Word

We are thankful that the Lord has been giving you the opportunity to serve others at your place, and to encourage them to follow Him. Live in humility, with your face in the dust before God's face, and then it can only go better and better in your life.

Whenever you get an opportunity to share God's Word there, prepare your message beforehand, writing down the main points of what you are going to speak on and the Bible-references. Be bold and forthright in presenting the Word. Never preach God's Word in an apologetic way, as though you were unsure of what you are saying. There is much that you have learnt and that God has done in your lives during the years that you were in Bangalore, and it is your duty now to share that with others as you get opportunity, because most Christians have little or no understanding of the new covenant.

When the Lord gives you the opportunity to encourage other young people around you, you must live in fear of these three things:

(1) Spiritual pride (because of your gifts, talents, position, salary or Bible-knowledge)

(2) Hypocrisy (preaching anything that you are not even attempting to practise)

(3) Seeking to impress people - especially any girls!

The only way to be free from these is by constant self-judgment, after you have finished your ministry. This is where the vast majority of preachers have failed. Many pray before preaching a sermon. But they do not get alone with the Lord and examine themselves after they have finished preaching.

The more you stand before others in public (when speaking or playing music), the more you must fall down before the Lord in private. Satan would very much like to puff you up with pride, or make you act a part without being genuine, or try to trap you in some other way. So be wary.

All Goes Well With the Godly

Every step of your future life will be guided by God - if you decide to be a godly man. It is the man who honours God who gets the best in life - not the clever man, or the rich man, or the genius, or the man who gets lucky breaks in life. All insecurity regarding the future comes when we do not choose godliness as a way of life. So decide to honour God at all times. He will then give you the best spiritually, and at the same time, all that is necessary materially and physically in this world too. I have found this to be true during the last 30 years of my life (*and in the past 50 years now - upto 2016). God will guide you concerning your college courses and in the profession that you should choose, and in employment and in marriage later on, and in everything, if you just make one decision now, and stand by it always - that you will honour God in all things and be a godly man.

That means to be faithful in the little things. It doesn't mean that you never fall or fail. But it does mean that you mourn each time you fail.

Never take anything that doesn't belong to you - from a person or a house or a college or an office or from anywhere - not even a cheap pen or a pencil. Never cheat anyone even in the smallest of matters. And as we have taught you in your schooldays, never cheat even in the smallest way in your examinations. It is better to fail than to cheat and pass. It is better to be poor than to cheat and be rich. Stop reading literature and looking at TV programs that pollute your mind. Keep your conscience absolutely clear in all matters. Those who live like this get God's best in life - in every generation - even in times of high inflation and recession.

I long that all of you my sons, will be such men, for I know then that it will go exceptionally well with you, and that God will bless even your children, as you yourself have been blessed! Thus you can be living demonstrations to an unbelieving generation that it goes well with the righteous and that God honours those who honour Him. Yearn with all your heart that you will be such a living testimony for God in this world rather than impressing this world with your cleverness or your accomplishments. Be careful also that outdoor activities never take such a place in your life that they become your god!

I also pray that all four of you, my sons, will proclaim the gospel of victory over sin and death to Self (by having experienced the reality of this yourself), and that you will fulfil your God-appointed ministry in the Body of Christ (whatever that may be), while earning your own living with a secular job - serving the Lord like Paul did, at your own expense, without being dependent on anyone. This is what the world needs to see and this is my greatest longing for all of you. I know that only those who consistently seek the kingdom of God first and His righteousness first, will have no regrets when Jesus returns.

There are strong spirits of immorality and sexual perversion in the world today that seek to attack young college students. So I want to warn you to be careful to resist Satan in this area constantly. Don't allow Satan to get a foothold in your life at any time in the sexual area, through TV, literature or anything else. Satan selects his targets from those who are likely to do the greatest damage to his work. So it is an honour to be attacked by Satan, as Jesus was throughout His life. But we are not afraid of Satan at all - because he has been stripped of his power over us, defeated thoroughly by our Saviour, and made an open show of, at Calvary's cross (Col.2:14,15).

Ezekiel 16:49 gives four reasons for lack of self-control in the sexual area (as in the case of Sodom) - pride, gluttony, idleness and selfishness. If you work faithfully in these four areas, you will find that you become strong to overcome in the sexual area as well.

The fear of failure is a haunting fear that you must shake off. Even if you fail for the 1000th time in any area (whether spiritual or academic), you must just get up and continue running. You must not allow your past failures to haunt you. All you have to do is exercise your will and reject every thought of past failures, whenever they come to your mind. If you are faithful in doing this, you will find after some time, that such thoughts will occur only rarely - and finally stop altogether. This is what it means to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor.10:5).

Chapter 24
Chapter 24

The Spirit as Water

When Jesus spoke of "being born of water and the Spirit", He was referring to water as a symbol of the Spirit. Notice His three uses of `water' in John's gospel, showing the three stages of spiritual development:

(1) Born of water - the beginning (like a cup of water) (Jn.3:5; " the cup of salvation" - Psa.116:13).

(2) A well of water - fully satisfied with Christ oneself (Jn.4:14).

(3) Rivers of water - communicating God's life to many others (Jn.7:38).

John the Baptist spoke of "being baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire". Again, the "fire" there is not a literal fire, but a symbol of the Spirit'sinward work of purification, just like water is a symbol of Hisexternal work of cleansing (" having our bodies washed with pure water" - Heb.10:22). (Numbers 31:22, 23 speaks in symbols of the cleansing of water first, and then the deeper purification by fire).

A Life of Triumph

"Without faith it is impossible to please God" - no matter what else we may have (Heb.11:6). And when we do have faith, nothing will be impossible for us (Mark 9:23). What that means is that nothing that is within God's plan for our lives will be impossible for us. The man of faith is one who believes that God's plan alone is perfect and the very best for his life, even in the smallest of details. And so he desires nothing for himself outside of that plan, and so he asks God for nothing outside of that. And so, within that plan of God, everything is possible for him.

The man of faith is the one who believes that God is always on his side against the devil, that Jesus is always his Advocate in the heavenly court, even when he has fallen into sin (if he confesses it). He believes that God is ready to help him overcome every sin and keep every commandment, and that God has not left him alone to fend for himself in this world. Such a man is a constant overcomer in all of life's situations.

Imagine living a life where nothing that you have to do in your life will be impossible for you! What a sense of triumph and fulfilment such a life can bring to you! That is how God wants you to live. And that is how you can live, if you have faith. So you should wholeheartedly and willingly choose God's plan and His commands as the very best for you, no matter what the price you have to pay.

For faith to grow within you, you must hear what the Spirit is seeking to say to your hearts during each day. For this, we must begin our day by thinking of God. And then, we must be quick to obey the little promptings of the Spirit, during the day, when He tells us, "Don't do that. Don't look at that. Don't read that", or "It is good for you to meditate a little on the Scriptures now. Speak a word for the Lord now" etc.

Never be ashamed to own the Name of Jesus, and to be known as a totally committed disciple of the Lord Jesus, even if others think you are fanatical. Don't ever let Satan get you to bow the knee to him (compromise your convictions), just for the sake of the honour of some mortal man.

Faith is as essential to our Christian lives, as the breath we breathe is essential to our physical lives. So be faithful to the inner voice of the Spirit in the little things. And you will grow up to be a man of faith who lives with spiritual dignity and in constant triumph at all times.

Radical Attitude towards Sexual Lust

Jesus told His disciples in the sermon on the mount that any man, who looked on a woman to lust after her, was committing adultery with her. He went on to say that it was better for such a man to pluck out his eye than to go to Hell with both eyes. He taught thereby that constantly lusting after women sexually with one's eyes was enough to finally send a man to Hell.

The fire of lust in a man's heart today is the same hell-fire that has burned in every man's heart, since the time of Adam. Only the fire of the Holy Spirit can destroy it. Your heart will either burn with lust to sin, or burn with love for Jesus. Your choice has to be one of these two: Either the refiner's fire now or hell-fire in the future. There is no third alternative.

The Jewish people, to whom the Lord spoke, already had a very high moral standard through the Law. They lived by a strict moral code, where sex outside of marriage was always punished by death. There were no pornographic books or magazines or television programmes in that day, to tempt people to immorality. Every woman in that society was decently dressed, and men and women hardly ever spoke to each other. Yet, even in such a society, with all its restrictions, the Lord knew that men lusted after women, and He had to warn His disciples against it. If it was so in such a strict society, how much more He would warn young men about this in the lewd society that we live in today.

Today's society throws fuel into our minds through every possible means, to feed our sexual passions. This is why we all have to be more careful in our day. If you are serious about putting out this fire of lust, then you must be serious about cutting off the supply of fuel. And you must cut off the source of that fuel, fiercely and radically, without any mercy. This is what it means to pluck out the eye and to cut off the hand. Jesus was commanding us to destroy the thing that causes us to sin. Jesus was more aware than anyone else of the danger of sin and the reality of hell-fire - and that was why He urged such radical spiritual surgery, in order to be saved from sin.

The application of the Lord's command to us today is, "If your television-set causes you to sin in your mind, get rid of it immediately." It is better to go to Heaven, having missed out on TV, than to go to Hell along with the TV stars whom you have watched on the screen. Or if it is some magazine, or a particular type of music that stimulates you and causes you to sin, do the same thing with those magazines and cassette-tapes. Surely there can be nothing on earth that is so precious to you, that you must keep holding on to it, even if as a result, you finally miss Heaven and go to Hell.

Even as you read this, Satan will be quick to whisper to you, "You will surely not die (go to Hell) for something so small as that." And he will cleverly tell you that lusting after a picture in a magazine or after someone you see on the TV is not really adultery. Don't listen to him - for Jesus has warned us that Satan has been a liar from the beginning.

Don't just say concerning this sin, "I'll try to do it better in future", or "I'll try to give it up". The Bible warns us to abstain from even the appearance of evil. Believe that God will help you in every possible way to give up this sin immediately and permanently. Take up the battle from today, and don't give up until you have cut off the head of this Goliath that has defied you who are a soldier in the army of the living God.

The Lord is cleansing His temple once again. His temple now is your physical body. Allow Him to do a thorough job in it at once.

1 Corinthians 7:1 warns us to avoid physical contact with girls. When the Holy Spirit says something is "not good" (as He says there), that should be enough for any disciple to avoid it altogether. Legalists live by the letter, whereas disciples live by the spirit of the commandment. For example: Jesus knew that it was adultery to lust after a woman in one's heart, because He sought to understand the spirit of the seventh commandment. In the same way, if you are wholehearted, you will see what lies at the root of all of God's commandments. See what Paul tells Timothy: "Flee from anything that will give you the temptations that young men often have" (2 Timothy 2:22-Living). You must flee from all such possibilities of temptation.

A Chosen Vessel

I just read this lovely poem

The Master was searching for a vessel to use;

Before Him were many - which one would He choose?

"Take me", cried the gold one, "I'm shiny and bright.

"I am of great value and I do things just right.

"My beauty and lustre will outshine the rest;

"And for someone like You, Master, gold would be best."

The Master passed on with no word at all,

And looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall.

"I'll serve You, dear Master, I'll pour out Your wine,

"I'll be on Your table, whenever You dine.

"My lines are so graceful, my carvings so true,

"And silver will certainly compliment You."

Unheeding, the Master passed on to the vessel of brass ,

Wide-mouthed and shallow and polished like glass.

"Here, here", cried the vessel, "I know I will do;

"Place me on Your table for all men to view.

"Look at me", called the goblet of crystal so clear,

"Though fragile am I, I will serve You with fear."

The Master came next to the vessel of wood -

Polished and carved, it solidly stood.

"You may use me, dear Master", the wooden bowl said,

"But I'd rather You used me for fruit, not for bread."

Then the Master looked down on a vessel of clay,

Empty and broken it helplessly lay.

No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose

To cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.

"Oh, this is the vessel I've been hoping to find.

"I'll mend it and use it and make it all Mine.

"I need not the vessel with the pride of itself,

"Nor one that is narrow, to sit on the shelf,

"Nor one that is big-mouthed and shallow and loud,

"Nor one that displays its contents so proud."

Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay,

Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day;

Spoke to it kindly, "There's work you must do -

"Just pour out to others as I pour in to you." (Author unknown)

Knocked Down but Not Knocked Out

God's ways are not ours. He has to break you first - through many frustrations and failures - and so He sends you where you can get that spiritual education that He has planned for you.

None of us would ever have thought of sending Moses for 40 years into the wilderness to look after sheep and to face the humiliation of having to stay with his father-in-law and work under him, all those 40 years, in order to prepare him to be the greatest leader of Israel. But that is God's way. God did something similar with Jacob before changing him into a prince of God (Israel). The most difficult task that God has is to break a man. But when God succeeds in doing that, the power released through such a man will far exceed that released when the atom is broken!

God protected me when I was knocked off my moped at the railway crossing and enabled me to recover fairly soon. That was yet another indication to me that His angels watch over me. Paul said about his experience, " We are knocked down, but we get up and keep going " (2 Cor.4:9 - Living). That was my experience too that day. God allows us to be knocked down now and then. But we don't stay down like others. We get up and keep going . And that is what infuriates Satan even more. God also gives us an education in sanctification through being knocked down, so that it turns out for our very best. So I continue to proclaim the victory of Jesus and the defeat of Satan even more since that day, everywhere I go. Hallelujah!!

Chapter 25
Chapter 25

Coming to an End of Ourselves

It is only when we have come to a thorough end of ourselves, that we are ready to come to the Lord Jesus invited people saying, " Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden" (Matt.11:28). Jesus does not invite everyone to come to Him. Here we see Him inviting only those who are sick and tired of their sin-defeated lives. The prodigal son came back to his father only when he had "spent everything" and "no man gave him anything". Then only did he " come to his senses" (Lk.15:16-18). We can grow spiritually only when we come to that point in our lives where we don't care for the honour of men, and have stopped complaining about people and circumstances - and are now sick and tired only of our own defeated lives. That is true repentance.

Otherwise we will be like premature babies, who need to be kept inside the incubator constantly (constantly warmed and encouraged by others). We must not find our security even in the church, but only in the Lord. Ezekiel 36:25-30 prophesies about the abundant life that Jesus would give us under the new covenant. It goes on to say in verse 31 that when we come into that life, we will " loathe ourselves for all the evil that we had done in our previous days ". One of the primary marks of a man of God is that he has a cry within himself at all times saying, " O wretched man that I am. How shall I be totally delivered from all sin? " (Rom.7:24 - paraphrase). He constantly longs to be free from all the defilement and even the smell of sin in the flesh.

God wants you to be strong in the day of adversity (Prov.24:10). But you must build up your knowledge of the Lord in this time of peace, if you want to be strong in that day of adversity.

Spiritual Power

One great danger of the last days is that of having "a form of godliness without the power" (2 Tim.3:5). It is very easy to be satisfied with the power that we have because of our gifts and talents. Soul power is manifested in intellectual power, emotional power and will power. But none of these is the Divine power that Christ and the Holy Spirit have come to give us.

Intellectual power is seen in great scientists, scholars and clever preachers. Emotional power is seen in rock musicians - and in many preachers too. Will power is seen among yoga experts and other ascetics - and also among preachers who seek to dominate others through their personality. We must not mistake any of these three for spiritual power.

Spiritual power primarily makes us obey God in everything. Consider the power of God displayed in the planets and stars that have moved within their orbits in perfect timing, for millenniums. The reason for that perfection is that they have obeyed God's laws implicitly. These heavenly bodies are a mute testimony to the fact that the best thing to do is to obey God totally.

Jesus did not overcome Satan with brute physical power, but with spiritual power. When tempted by Satan, Jesus refused to turn stones into bread, even though He could have done that; and this, in spite of the fact that His body longed for food, after 40 days of fasting. What a contrast that was to what Eve did, who satisfied her bodily longing immediately in the paradise of Eden, even though she was not hungry. The desire for sex is another desire that resides within our bodies, like the desire for food. That also craves for gratification constantly. When we have spiritual power we will be like Jesus Who said He would live by "every Word of God" rather than satisfy the cravings of His body.

Samson had great physical power to tear physical lions apart. But the lion of sexual lust within him tore him apart repeatedly. This proves that sexual lust is far stronger than any lion. Joseph however was a stronger man than Samson, for he could tear the lion of lust in pieces, again and again, day after day (Gen.39:7-13).

Our motives determine whether God will give us spiritual power or not. If your goal and ambition in life is only to please and glorify God, He will give you His power readily. " You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (James 4:3).

A job or a profession is only to be a means of earning our living. Our ambition in life must however be only to please God - and not to live for ourselves or to be great in this world. Satan tried to tempt even Jesus with the glory of this world. So, he will certainly offer this to us too. But we must constantly refuse it (like Jesus did), because we can get that glory only by bowing down to Satan in some way. We have to be especially careful that the love of money does not lure us away from fulfilling God's plan for our lives. We must have no regrets over our choices, 2000 years from now.

Dying With Jesus

Although there were at least two who were raised from the dead in Old Testament times, and at least three in Jesus' ministry, yet Jesus was the first to conquer death - because the others who were raised from the dead, died again. In Hebrews 2:14 we are told that through death, Jesus rendered powerless Satan who had the power of death and thus delivered those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

When we choose to die with Jesus once and for all, we will no longer be afraid of physical death. The death of a believer is always called " sleep" in the New Testament (e.g. Stephen in Acts 7:60). In 1 Thess.4:13, we read of those who are "asleep in Jesus" being raised up when Jesus returns. However in the case of Jesus, it is never written that He fell asleep on the cross. His was death- because He took the punishment for our sins.

When we choose to accept our death with Christ, we will find that these words that Job spoke about death are fulfilled (spiritually speaking) in our lives: " In death: (1) wicked people can't bother us anymore; (2) weary people enter into rest; (3) prisoners are free from their jailers; and (4) the slave is free from his master " (Job 3:17-19).

When John saw Jesus at Patmos, he fell at His feet, "as a dead man " (Rev.1:17, 18). We too must die with Jesus and fall down at His feet and lie there as dead men, all our lives. Then Jesus will lay His hand on us and strengthen us, as He did John. The Lord told John at that time that He held the key of death. It is for such people that Jesus holds the key of death (v.18). They are immortal until their life's work is done. But those who do not accept their death with Christ, will allow Satan still to hold the key of their death. Thus they may die before their appointed time. How blessed it is then to accept death with Jesus once and for all - so that we will never taste death again.

Romans 6:11 tells us to " consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God" at all times. Whenever we are provoked by others or tempted to lust sexually, ask yourself two questions: "How will a dead man react in this situation?" and "How would Jesus react?" You will get the answer immediately. Then act accordingly.

Aging Gracefully

I hope your working long hours every day to earn some money to pay for your tuition, doesn't get to be too much for you. Just make sure that your studies don't suffer. There is of course the other side, that if you are busy the whole day, it will save you from many temptations and give you a good sleep at night too. " The student who works hard sleeps well whether he eats little or much, but the rich student will worry and suffer from insomnia " (Eccl.5:12 - Living)!

I read something in Ecclesiastes the other day: " It is a wonderful thing to be alive! If a person lives to be very old, let him rejoice in every day of life, but let him also remember that eternity is far longer and that everything down here is futile in comparison. Young man it is wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it! You can, if you like, do all you want to, and take in everything. But remember that you must account to God finally for everything you do. So banish the things that will ultimately cause you grief and pain. And remember that youth, with a whole life before it, can make serious mistakes. So don't let the excitement of being young cause you to forget your Creator. Honour Him in your youth before the evil years come. It will be too late then to remember Him " (Eccl.11:7-12:1 - Living).

The time of old age is mentioned here as "the evil years" - when a man becomes " a white-haired old man, dragging himself along, without sexual desire " (Eccl.12:5). But old age can be glorious years, if one has overcome sin in one's youth. Otherwise those years can be miserably evil. I have seen old people grumpy, sour and bitter, and living uselessly. That was because they did not take God's Laws seriously in their younger days, and deal with sin radically.

All men since Adam - except Jesus - must have sinned in their youth in many foolish ways. But those who repent radically and determine to honour God, after having failed, come into a glorious life and end their lives with glory. The others end their lives in shame, just like some modern-day preachers who at the fag-end of their lives, (when they are in their 50s and 60s, and old enough to be grandfathers) fall into adultery! This happens because they were not faithful to overcome sexually dirty thoughts in their youthful days.

The other interesting thing I noticed in the above verse (Eccl.12:5) was that being "without sexual desire" is described as a bad state to be in! Yoga teaches people to overcome sexual desire by killing it. But that is not God's way. That is evil - because it is as bad as killing the desire for food and sleep. We should not long that sexual desire be taken away from us permanently. The three powerful desires in the human body - for food, sleep and sex - were all created by an all-wise God. Anyone who does not have a desire for any of these three, is sick. So the fact that you have strong sexual desire is not an indication that you need a spiritual check-up. It is as perfectly normal as being hungry and wanting to eat, or being tired and wanting to sleep. We are not ashamed of those two desires and we don't have to be ashamed of the third desire either. In fact, if you don't have a strong sexual desire at your age, it may indicate that you need a medical check-up! The important thing however is to keep all these three desires under control, so that they serve us and our bodies, instead of ruling our bodies, and thus destroying our lives. Disciplining all these three desires is very important. So, ask God to help you to control your appetite for food so that it doesn't become gluttony; and to control your desire for sleep so that it doesn't become laziness. Then you will find controlling sexual desire easier as well.

Soulish or Spiritual

In 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15, we read of "the natural (soulish) man" and " he who is spiritual". There is a vast difference between a soulish Christian and a spiritual Christian. Human cleverness cannot understand this, as it says there: " A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one ."

The mind and the spirit are as different as the eye and the ear. And just as it is possible for someone to have good hearing and yet be blind, it is also possible for someone to have a brilliant intellect and a ' dead' spirit - or vice versa. For our work in this world, we need a good mind. But when it comes to the things of God, it is the state of our spirit that matters. To understand the things of God we need revelation from the Holy Spirit, and that is given only to the humble ("infants" who have a spirit of humility - Matt.11:25), and not to the clever (unless they are also humble). It is difficult for a clever man to be humble, although it is not impossible. That is just like it being difficult for a self-righteous Pharisee to acknowledge that he is a sinner, although not impossible. It is easier for prostitutes and thieves to acknowledge that they are sinners. So also in the matter of Divine revelation: It is easier for an unlearned man to acknowledge that he is not clever - and so he can receive Divine revelation quicker. That was why Jesus spent most of His time with three unlearned fishermen - Peter, James and John - because He found them to be the most responsive to spiritual things. And this was also why the Pharisees found it so difficult to accept Christ - because their pride in their intellects hindered them from acknowledging that they were spiritually foolish. This is something that you must bear in mind when constantly mingling with college-students who are intellectual and clever.

Human cleverness has no value before God. It is as unimportant to God as the colour of our skin - for both of these are what people are born with, and whatever people are born with, gives them no advantage before God. Cleverness, like human righteousness, is like filthy rags in God's sight (Isa.64:6). Christ has become not only our righteousness, but also our wisdom (See 1 Cor.1:30).

We are encouraged however, by the fact that a man like Paul, who was both a self-righteous Pharisee and a brilliant intellectual (both handicaps), could not only be saved, but also become a great apostle of Christ. But that was because he humbled himself constantly. When speaking to the Corinthians, he says he feared lest he would depend on his intellectual ability, and that was why he was "in fear and trembling among them " (1 Cor.2:3). He feared lest he preach to them with the power of his mind (soul) rather than in the power of God's Spirit. We must all have that fear whenever we speak. This is why we must pray constantly for the power of the Holy Spirit - for we need this continuously.

So, we must not mistake a clever intellectual presentation of Biblical truth for a spiritual one. Neither must we mistake a very emotional message for a spiritual one. Both the intellect and the emotions are parts of our soul. These are good servants but bad masters. The Holy Spirit alone must be Lord in our lives. Ultimately, the way to become spiritual lies in the three secrets of the Christian life that I mentioned earlier: Humility, Humility and Humility! If you have that, you will be all right.

Chapter 26
Chapter 26

The Way of the Cross

The only two times that Jesus ever said, "Get behind Me, Satan" were in Matthew 4:10 and 16:23. It is an interesting fact that on both occasions Satan tried to prevent Jesus from going to the cross - once directly and on the second occasion through Peter. First, Satan offered Jesus the whole world (which Jesus had come to win back to God), without Jesus' having to go to the cross - by a short cut, the short-cut of compromise. When he didn't succeed there, he tried to provoke Him to self-pity through Peter. On both occasions Jesus recognized Satan's voice. This is where many don't recognize Satan's voice. You must remember that in every situation, the voice that tells you to avoid the way of the cross is the voice of the Devil.

Some Christians have the crazy habit of fanatically rebuking Satan often, when what they really need to do is to crucify their flesh. A bad thought comes to our mind from the desires in our flesh. It may be provoked by something Satan and his demons bring within our vision, outside of us. But we must not forget that it is our self-will that causes the temptation. And what we need to do at that time is to ask God for grace to resist our own will and to crucify it.

Satan was not defeated when Jesus cast out demons or healed the sick or preached sermons. Hebrews 2:14 clearly states that Satan was defeated when Jesus died on the cross. That is how you can defeat Satan too - when you take our place with Christ on the cross. So, that is what Satan will try to prevent you from doing. But if you constantly choose the way of the cross, Satan will never have any power over you.

This is why Satan has prevented the vast majority of evangelical Christian churches from preaching about " always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor.4:10). The only thing that Jesus ever said that we must do daily is to bear the cross (Lk.9:23). Beware then of churches that do not preach taking up the cross daily. Any preaching that only tells unbelievers about Jesus dying for their sins but does not tell believers about their being crucified with Christ and their need to die daily, is an incomplete gospel. These are the two sides of the gospel - just like the two sides of a coin.

We cannot have the power of God, if we do not take up the cross every day. In Christian preaching these days, we find many good things being preached; but the message of the daily cross is missing completely. This is Satan's master-work - hiding the message of dying with Jesus daily. So determine that wherever you get a chance to speak, you will help restore the balance and preach the daily cross. That will make you unpopular with men, but great in heaven.

When I was 23 years old, I began seeking God for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord showed me then how it was when He chose the way of death (symbolically, in His baptism), that He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Matt.3:16). And the Lord told me then that as long as I chose the way of the cross - the way of death to Self - I too would have His power. But if I ever decided to leave that pathway, I would lose His power as well. I have chosen that way permanently, and it has made me supremely happy. I would recommend that way wholeheartedly, to all of you.

The Way of Life

The gospel of the new covenant is essentially this: that we can partake of the Divine nature. God's nature is LOVE - and the most important characteristic of love is that it does not seek its own. It was because Jesus did not seek His own that He came down from heaven to earth to save us. God compares His love for us to that of a mother for her nursing babe (Isa.49:15). A mother's love for her newborn baby is the greatest demonstration of love that one can see on earth - for a good mother does everything unselfishly for her child, expecting nothing in return. This is how the love of God is too - and this is the nature that we are to partake of. Then we will be able to serve God's people like Jesus Himself did.

Love is the fuel that runs the Christian life. A car has to be pushed when the gas-tank is empty. Even so, where fervent love for the Lord has dried up, our labour for Him will become heavy and burdensome, like pushing a car. Then it will also become difficult to bear with the weaknesses and follies of others around us. So we need to keep going back to the petrol-bunk (gas-station) again and again to fill-up. " Be filled with the Spirit continuously".(Eph 5:18)

Victory over anger and lusting with the eyes are by themselves only a preparation for the ultimate goal of partaking of the Divine nature itself. Our flesh is utterly selfish, and it is this selfish nature that has to be put to death daily. We are not to seek our own gain or honour or comfort, or anything that is our own - for that is the way of eternal death. The way of life is the way of giving ourselves utterly to do the will of God alone for our lives, whatever that may cost us. We must judge ourselves every day, and many times each day - not by looking inward, but by looking up at Jesus - and thus discover the areas where we are seeking our own and not the glory of God. Then we can cleanse ourselves from that self-seeking. This is the pathway to perfection. Very few are interested in cleansing themselves so faithfully from ALL filthiness of the flesh and the spirit (2 Cor.7:1) - and that is why very few grow up to a genuine godly life.

Jesus said that only "men of violence" will possess the kingdom of God (Matt.11:12). What that means is that we must do violence to everything within us that stands in the way of obedience to God's commandments. It is not by our obedience to the big commandments that we prove our obedience. No. Jesus said that he who obeys and teaches others to obey the least of the commandments will be called great in God's kingdom (Matt.5:19). A little child's obedience is not tested by his not murdering anyone or by not committing adultery in school. No. It is by his obeying his mother when she calls him to help her, when he himself wants to play. So it is in our relationship with God as well. It is in the little things of daily life that we are to be faithful. Otherwise we are disobedient.

God or Mammon

Mammon (earthly wealth) is the great power that constantly opposes the rule of God in our lives. That is the alternative master who is always craving for our allegiance and service. Luke 16:13 teaches us that if we don't conquer the power of money and put it under our feet, we will not be able to love God as we should or to hold on to God. We can earn money, but we must never sacrifice spiritual things for material gain. God must always be FIRST in our lives. Christ must be Lord of ALL - or He will not be Lord at all.

Many believers, who are zealous to follow the Lord when they have difficulties and trials and poverty in their lives, drift away from the Lord when their lives become prosperous, comfortable and luxurious. You must always remember that your job is only a means of earning your living. Since it is getting more and more expensive to live in the world, and since jobs for Christians (where no unrighteousness is involved) are becoming more and more difficult to obtain, it is good for you when you are young to get all the technical education you can get, so that it will be easier for you later to find a well-paying job. But you must never forget that your goal at all times must be to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first. Everything else must be secondary. Otherwise Mammon will get a hold on your life.

The rich young ruler who came to Jesus had so many good qualities. But he lacked ONE thing. He loved money more than he loved God. And that one disqualification made him miss the kingdom of God. Just think how he must be regretting his decision today.

Being exact in money matters is not because money has any value to us. We really believe that money will be under our feet in heaven - because the roads there are made of pure gold, and we will be walking on them (Rev.21:21). But it is to those who are faithful in the use of money here on earth that God commits the true riches of heaven, as Jesus said (Lk.16:11). That is why we must be careful in our use of money. We don't want to miss the true riches. Yet God is not a taskmaster. Where we have blundered in the past in the use of money (and we all have), God is merciful and forgives. But in our own interest it is good to be faithful in the future.

Becoming Like Children and Being on Fire

Jesus told His disciples that in order to enter God's kingdom, they had to be converted and become like little children (Matt.18:3). Jesus' definition of being converted therefore is to become like little children. That involves unlearning the ways of grown-ups that we have learnt from the age of one onwards. The spirit of the world has taught us that we must " seek our own", because that's what pays. We have to get rid of this attitude. Then we can become like little children once again. This is the wonderful message of the gospel that we can be free from malice, bitterness, grudges, complaints and impurity etc.

In Matthew 13:43, Jesus said that " the righteous will shine forth as the sun ". The sun is constantly on fire at millions of degrees. No germs or bacteria can therefore survive on it. That is how the Lord wants us to be too - always on fire for Him, always zealous and fervent for purity, to serve others and to bless them, to humble ourselves, to testify in the meetings, and always on fire to build the church. Young men like you should be in the forefront in this matter. In the next three verses (Matt.13:44 to 46), Jesus explains how we can be on fire always, through two parables (one about the treasure in the field and the other about the pearl of great price). In both of them, we find this one phrase repeated - " He sold all that he had ". That is the secret. We have to give up our self-will, our rights, our honour, our privileges, everything. Only then can we be like the sun - always on fire.

Chapter 27
Chapter 27

Spirit of Babylon

God has to give all of us a tour of Babylonian Christianity as part of our education. I had my tour for 16 years - from the time I was born again, upto 1975. You are getting that tour right now in the different compromising churches that you have visited there. Many of God's people are in Babylon today - as Revelation 18:4 makes plain. God says to them in that verse, "Come out of her, My people". The problem is with their leaders and pastors who lead the flock astray. As in Jesus' time, many of God's people today are like " sheep without true shepherds" (Matt.9:36). Think of all that Jesus must have seen in the temple at Jerusalem three times every year and at the synagogue in Nazareth every week, that dishonoured God, when He went to these places from the age of 12 to age 30. But He did not say or do anything about all that, because it was not yet God's time. But those years and those experiences were an important part of His education at Nazareth for His ministry later. So will it be for you also now.

The essence of the spirit of Babylon is seen in the words of Peter to Jesus in Matthew 19:27 (Living): " What will we get out of it?" We too can wonder, if we have given up many things for the Lord, how He will reward us - here on earth and later in heaven. That would prove that we are thinking of godliness as a means of gain for ourselves and that we are self-centred in our thinking. Some may seek money or honour here on earth through their preaching and their service for the Lord. Others may seek a reward or a place in the Bride of Christ in heaven. Whatever it be, as long as we are seeking something for ourselves, we still have the spirit of Babylon within us. This is the filthiness of the spirit that we must cleanse ourselves from.

When Peter asked what he would get out of ser ving the Lord, Jesus replied with a parable in Matthew 20:1-16. There he spoke of two types of labourers: (1) those who worked for a reward (salary) - some for one denarius (v.2) and some for "whatever is a lawful hourly wage" (v.4) - but both for wages; (2) those who went to work with no promise of a wage (v.7). This second category of workers got the highest wage - one denarius per hour. All the others got less - the first ones getting only 0.08 denarius per hour, for they worked for 12 hours for one denarius. Thus, as Jesus said there, many who are last now will be first in eternity - because the Lord " will test the quality and motive of each man's service " (1 Cor.3:13 and 4:5) and not the quantity of their work.

Jesus never drove out those who were making money for themselves in the marketplace in Jerusalem. No. Because the marketplace is the right place to make money. John Wesley said that Christians should earn all that they can through hard work. I agree with that. Jesus drove out only those who were trying to get profit for themselves in God's house. Even so today; Jesus will cleanse out from the church those who seek honour or fame or money or any other type of gain for themselves in the church. The church is to be a place of sacrifice. The last verse of Zechariah states that when the Lord returns, " There will be no more grasping traders in the house of the Lord" (Zech.14:21 - Living Bible). We must never seek anything for ourselves in the service that we do for our Lord.

Even though the Lord has rewards for those who serve Him faithfully, as is promised in the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation, yet we must not work for reward. We work as an expression of our gratitude to the Lord for what He did for us on Calvary. Those who work for a reward won't get any!

This was how I felt after I had that road-accident at the railway-crossing, when I could have died:
(1) I felt that there were many more areas in which I would like to be transformed into the likeness of Christ before I leave this earth. So I am thankful that I have some more time to "look unto Jesus" and see my lack and judge myself and be an overcomer in the areas where God gives me light.
(2) I also felt at that time, that 34 years (from the age of 19 to 53) were not enough to show my gratitude to the Lord for what He had done for me on Calvary. And so I was thankful that God spared my life and has now given me some more years to show my gratitude to Him by serving Him in this needy world.
The Full Gospel

I am happy that the Lord is giving you opportunities to share the Word and serve God in other ways there. Such activities themselves will save you from the pressure of many temptations.

Jesus spoke with spiritual authority unlike the Pharisees (Matt.7:29). This was because He had overcome all temptation in His daily life during the previous thirty years before preaching. There is no substitute for a life that backs up what we preach. That is the only way to have spiritual authority.

The full gospel is found in Jesus' two words to the woman caught in adultery: "I do not condemn you (for your past sins)" and "From now on, do not sin any more" (John 8:11). These two words from the Lord are like the two sides of a coin. A coin (or a gospel) having only one side is a counterfeit.

Jesus was crucified not because He preached about being good and humble, but because He denounced the traditions of the elders that contradicted God's Word (Mark 7:6-13). Today also, it is the traditions of men that hinder people from developing into the fullness of the stature of Christ. If we seek popularity with Christians, we will keep quiet about human traditions that are contrary to the Word of God.

The distinctive mark of the members of Christ's Body is that they keep resisting sin at all times ("The Spirit fights the flesh" - Gal.5:17). Jesus died not only to forgive our sins (1 Cor.15:3), but also that we might die with Him (Gal.2:20), and thus live no longer for ourselves, but only for Him (2 Cor.5:14, 15).

The Lord does not find pleasure in any who are half-hearted (lukewarm - that is, neither worldly (cold) nor on fire for Him (hot)). He vomits out such people (Rev.3:16) - just like we would vomit out any food that refused to become a part of our body, after entering our stomach. So, you must always be on fire, with the fire of the Holy Spirit - to live a holy life, to be a witness for Christ, and to build His church.

Mercy and Grace

Many have misunderstood the meaning of "grace" today. There are many definitions of "grace" that clever Christians have invented. But here is the definition that the Lord Himself gave Paul: " My grace is sufficient for you - for Mypower is made perfect in your weakness " (2 Cor.12:9). So "grace" means " God's power for our weakness" - whatever that weakness may be. For every weakness that we have - whether due to our temperament or our past failures or whatever - God's grace can give us the power to overcome.

Grace is also called "help in time of need" in Hebrews 4:16 (where the time of need is the time of temptation, in the context - see verse 15). We are all extremely weak people. But very few realize that they are weak - and that is why they don't seek for grace from God. We are so weak that one pretty face or one tempting picture in a magazine is enough to knock us down with sexual lust. One compliment on our abilities or our performance is enough to knock us down with pride. And one unexpected financial gain is enough to knock us down with the love of money. Satan knows our weakness in these areas, but very often we don't. If we realize our weakness, we will constantly cry out to God for grace.

Our time of need is when we are tempted - before we fall into sin, not after. We are like people climbing a mountain, who in the moment of temptation are slipping down a cliff, hanging on by our fingers. But we are often too proud to ask for help. We usually wait until we fall and break our bones before we ask for help. Then the ambulance of mercy comes and takes us to the hospital.

But Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we should ask for grace to help us in our time of need - and our time of need is before we fall, not after. If we ask for grace then, we will experience God lifting us up from the cliff. Most Christians live lives of repeatedly falling and repeatedly being taken to the hospital in the ambulance. God offers us a better life - where we can be helped, at the moment of temptation. Ask for this help.

The good news of the new covenant is that Jesus offers us both mercy and grace.

The secret of receiving grace (power) from God is first of all to acknowledge our need, our failures, our hypocrisy and our powerlessness honestly, and then to thirst for God's power believing that God will certainly give it to us. Here is my definition of faith: Faith is to believe that God is more eager to give us whatever He has promised, than we are eager to receive it.

But " God gives His grace only to the humble " (1 Pet.5:5). And only humble people can build the church as the Body of Christ. Jesus became a servant first before He laid the foundation of the church.

Chapter 28
Chapter 28

Grace is Superior to the Law

Grace is as much superior to the Law as Jesus is superior to Moses. If the Law could bring forgiveness of sins (Psa.103:3; and Psa.32:1), then grace can certainly lead us further - to victory over sin (Rom.6:14 and 8:3; and Matt.1:21).

Grace is what helped Jesus to be an Overcomer from His childhood days (See Luke 2:40), until the time He died on the cross (See Heb.2:9). Now He sits with the Father on His throne, because He overcame (See Rev.3:21). In that same verse, He also tells us how we can sit with Him on His throne - by overcoming temptation exactly as He Himself overcame. This is the place of honour that James and John asked for, and that Jesus said only the Father could give them. Now Jesus tells us how all of us can reach that place of honour - on the throne, on the left hand and right hand of Jesus - by overcoming.

Discipleship and Partnership

The conditions of discipleship mentioned in Luke 14:26, 27, 33 are required of all who are to be used by the Lord to build His church. These are: (i) Giving the supreme place to the Lord in our hearts and lives; (ii) Hating our own Adamic Self-life; (iii) Being detached from a possessive attitude to earthly things (money, job etc.).We are permitted by God to have many things, but we must not possess any of them as if they were ours. We are to be stewards, holding everything for the Lord's use, to glorify Him.

The Christian life is a partnership with Jesus. He said, " Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me" - Matt.11:29. The picture here is of two bullocks under the same yoke - with the novice bullock learning from the experienced bullock how to plough a straight furrow. So the Lord does not expect us to do anything on our own. So, wherever you go or whatever you do (even watching a TV program) make sure you are doing it along with Jesus and under His yoke. If ever you feel uneasy about doing something, because you sense that Jesus would not approve of it, then give it up immediately.

Give No Place to Satan

Satan has, once and for all, been defeated by Jesus on the cross (Heb.2:14 and Col.2:14, 15). So you need never be afraid of Him. If you first submit to God and then resist Satan, he will certainly flee from you (James.4:7).

I want to encourage you with the words of the song, " Take the Name of Jesus with you - as a shield against every foe". The righteous man runs into this Name as unto a strong tower and is safe (Prov.18:10). Resist Satan in that Name. Call upon the Lord and He will deliver you from everything that bothers you at any time. Don't ever give any place to Satan. It says in Rev.12:8 that no place was found for Satan in heaven. There must be no place for him in your hearts either. A constant spirit of praise to God will be a great help in ensuring that Satan gets no foothold anywhere in your life.

Learning From Israel's Conceit

We can learn many lessons from the failures of the nation of Israel. One of their biggest mistakes was thinking that they were the only people whom God would be interested in. But God had told them through the prophets Hosea and Isaiah, that He would call others as well (this is quoted by Paul in Rom. 9:24-32).

We read of two reactions to Jesus' first sermon at Nazareth. First those Jewish people appreciated Him because He said that the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in their midst and that God had sent Him to set them free and to proclaim His favour on them (Luke 4:22). People always appreciate hearing things like that. But then Jesus went on to say that when God wanted to support Elijah, He bypassed all the widows in Israel and chose a non-Israeli widow (in Zarephath) to do that; and that God ignored all the lepers in Israel and healed a non-Israeli (Naaman) in the time of Elisha. As soon as they heard that God blesses non-Israelis, their reaction changed. They became so furious that they caught hold of Jesus and tried to kill Him (Luke 4:28, 29). Read that passage.

It has been the same in Christendom too, throughout the centuries. Whenever God moves through an instrument of His and starts a new movement, the people in that movement begin to think that they alone are the privileged elect of God and that God has no place or blessing for anyone else.

The only way to escape this is by judging ourselves constantly and refusing to judge others. We must certainly be discerning about people. But we don't have to judge or condemn anyone. Jesus clearly had a very negative opinion about Judas Iscariot, and Paul had a clear opinion about the carnality of the Corinthians. So, having such opinions about others is not wrong. In fact it is necessary if we are to avoid being deceived or manipulated by others. But we must not judge anyone or condemn anyone.

Ministry and Reproach

All prophetic ministry is "to disturb those who are comfortable, and to comfort those who are disturbed". That was how Jesus preached - disturbing the Pharisees and comforting repentant sinners. The Pharisees got furious at Jesus' preaching and hated Him. But repentant sinners were encouraged and loved Him. Every prophet today also will be greatly loved by repentant sinners seeking holiness and intensely hated by hypocrites and self-righteous Pharisees.

Simeon told Mary (Luke 2:34, 35) that Jesus' ministry would result in the thoughts of many hearts being exposed, and thus inmany falling lower and a few rising higher. This is what happens even today, wherever the Lord ministers in prophetic power through His servants.

Hebrews 13:11-13 tells us three things about being rejected by religious Christendom:

(1) Under the law, the bodies of the slain animals were treated as unclean and had to be burnt outside the camp.

(2) Thus even Jesus' body was treated as unclean by the Jews and He was killed outside Jerusalem.

(3) Now it is our turn to be considered unclean by the religious world (if we stand uncompromisingly for the Lord).

We must be willing to go outside worldly Christendom to Jesus. Reproach is the covering that every true disciple and every true local church will have to face, perpetually - not a reproach because of any foolishness or Phariseeism, but a reproach for standing true to God and His Word and for proclaiming His full purpose.

Grace - The New Covenant Blessing

The main difference between the old and the new covenants is that the old covenant was an earthly one and the new covenant is a heavenly one. Moses could promise the Israelites only lots of money, prosperous farms, many children, many cattle and physical health, if they kept the law. But Jesus did not come with such promises. He promises us victory over the lusts that enslave us. So we can choose what we want - the blessings of the old covenant or of the new. Most believers are quite content with the blessings of the old. Jesus said that most people would say, " The old is good enough" - Luke 5:39).

Chapter 29
Chapter 29

Isaac and Jacob

In the Old Testament, we see a vast difference between the way Isaac and Jacob ended their lives. And there was a reason for this. Isaac never had any struggles in his life. He received his riches from a wealthy father (Abraham) and enjoyed everything freely at home. His marriage also was arranged by his father. Jacob, on the other hand, had to struggle for everything. He had to run away from home, because his brother tried to kill him. He was cheated by his father-in-law, Laban, before he got his wealth and his two wives.

What was the final result in the case of these two men? At the end of Isaac's life, we see him as a lover of good food and without spiritual discernment as to which of his two children had been chosen by God. He decided to give the birthright to Esau, just because Esau could make the venison curry that he loved (Gen.27:2-4)!

Jacob however was very different at the end of his life. Broken by God at Peniel, he became Israel. And when Joseph brought his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim to be blessed, Jacob knew who would be more blessed. So he crossed his hands and gave the younger Ephraim the greater blessing. Jacob also prophesied about the future of all his sons (Gen.48:8 to 49:27). God had broken Jacob and so he had spiritual discernment and became a prophet.

Many believers, like Isaac, live only on what they have received spiritually from other believers. They can pass on to others only what they have received from their spiritual fathers. This is good, but it is the second-best. But then there are other believers (and these are very few) who have come to know God personally through the trials they have gone through in their lives. And like Jacob, they have received spiritual wealth (revelation) from God, understood His ways and His mind, and thus got spiritual discernment. This is how it must be with you. So learn to give thanks to the Lord for all that He allows you to face. Let Him shape you as the potter shapes his vessel of clay.

Make Jesus Lord of All

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, " Thanks be to God Who leads us always in His triumph". The Living Bible paraphrases that as , "Thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, He has triumphed over us". So God must triumph over us in every area of our lives, for us to live in triumph.

One day every knee will bow and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord (Phil.2:10, 11). But right now, the knee of every desire within your flesh must bow and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Those lusts that rule you must bow and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of your body.

" The Lord's sword will go forth against all flesh from head (north) to foot (south) and all flesh will know that the Lord has drawn forth His sword against it " (Ezek.21:4,5).

The goal towards which God is working is that " Jesus Christ might have the first place in everything " (Col.1:18). If you make that your goal too, then you can count on receiving God's help at all times - both in your life and in your witnessing for Him.

Christ must have first place in the way you spend your time and your money, in the books you read, in the music you listen to, in the TV programs you watch, in the friends you keep company with, in your speech, in everything. This is what it means to make Jesus Lord of all. Only then can you say that God has triumphed over you in every area. This is not something that can happen overnight. But make this your long-term goal, and keep working toward it. Then you will draw nearer and nearer to that goal day by day, and year by year.

Jesus was the Lamb of God Who bore the sins of the world. We are now called to be "sheep for the slaughter (Rom.8:36), bearing with the sins that others commit against us. The wood and the fire (the circumstances of our life) are all ready, as on Mount Moriah. But the question (like Isaac asked his father) is, "Where is the lamb" (Gen.22:7)? The answer is "You are to be the lamb".

What the Holy Spirit Seeks to Do

John the Baptist said that God had sent him to do four things in order to prepare the way of the Lord (Lk.3:5): (1) To raise up the valleys; (2) To bring down the mountains and hills; (3) To straighten the crooked paths; and (4) To smoothen the rough places.

This is what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives too:

(1) He has to raise up the low-lying areas - the areas where we are ruled by earthly things - like sex, money, human honour and reputation etc.

(2) He has to bring down the mountains of pride, arrogance and conceit (due to our abilities), and even the little hills of feelings of superiority (for example, when we do a job well).

(3) He has to get rid of all the crookedness and guile that there is within us.

(4) He has to soften our hardness, harshness and roughness.

Then the promise is, that everyone will see the salvation that God has wrought in our lives (Lk.3:6); and every part of our flesh will manifest the glory of God (Compare Isa.40:3-5). Like a prairie fire, God wants His glory to sweep across our flesh, little by little, area by area, destroying every bit of it.

Eliminating Dregs from Our Lives

In Jeremiah 48:10, it says, " Cursed be the one who does the Lord's work (the work of making Jesus Lord in every area of our flesh) negligently, and cursed be the one who restrains his sword from blood (that is, one who deals gently (instead of ruthlessly) with the lusts in his flesh)." It goes on to say in the next verse that because Moab has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, his aroma has not changed.

In an article titled Emptied From Vessel To Vessel, John Follette speaks of various vessels into which God pours us in order to get rid of our dregs - vessels of misunderstanding, ridicule, false accusation and dark trial etc. All these vessels have an amazing way of eliminating the dregs from our lives, if only the wine will remain still ("at rest"), so that the dregs can settle quickly. Once the dregs settle at the bottom of one vessel, God will pour us into another vessel. Thus our aroma gets sweeter and sweeter. But we must learn to be at rest - never justifying ourselves or defending ourselves. Otherwise, through constant disturbance, the wine will not be free from its dregs. There is a lot of wasted suffering among God's people, because they justify themselves and don't just commit their cause to God and leave it with Him.

In Zechariah 2:13, we read that "all flesh must be silent (at rest) before the Lord, since He has come from heaven to dwell in our midst ' (see verse 10). This is how it must be within us at all times.

Glory Only In the Cross of Christ

I want to encourage you to meditate much on Calvary - and never to be ashamed to stand up for Jesus Who was not ashamed to hang almost naked on a cross for you. One thing that will help keep you from backsliding is making your Christian position known clearly to your fellow-students. Don't ever bow the knee to Satan by doing what others do around you. Stand unbent and upright. The Lord has said, " I brought you out of the land of Egypt (the dominion of sin) so that you would not be their slave, and I broke the bars of your yoke so that you might walk erect and upright " (Lev.26:13).

In Philippians 3:17-19, Paul speaks of two categories of believers: First, those like himself who were constantly pressing on to perfection. Paul encouraged others to follow him in the one thing that he did - pressing on to perfection. In most denominations, the preachers say (with false humility), "Don't look at me or follow me. Follow only Christ." That sounds very humble, but it is not Biblical. We have to be living examples of what we preach. The second category of believers are called " enemies of the cross of Christ" here. These were believers: (i) whose appetite (their lusts for various things) was their god; and (ii) who gloried in the things that they should have been ashamed of.

We should never glory in our skin-colour, beauty, intelligence, capabilities, education, wealth or any other thing in which worldly people also glory. We must glory like Paul did, only in the cross of Christ whereby " the world's interest in us is dead and so is our interest in the attractive things of this world " (Gal.6:14- Living). When you take a stand for the Lord, many worldly people (and even worldly believers) will consider you to be an odd-ball. But don't let that disturb you. Stand up for the Lord before your worldly friends, and be unashamed in your witness for Christ.

We should be ashamed and mourn before God whenever there is no anointing on our lives, or if we are constantly defeated by sin, or if we don't have a hunger after God, and if we cannot challenge others to a godly life by our example. Such mourning is good for us. God takes note of it, and He will answer us by giving us grace and victory speedily.

We need not however be ashamed of our human frailties that are not related to sin - like sickness, awkward mannerisms, lack of intelligence, ugliness or poverty. God doesn't choose film-stars and scientists to do his work, but those who have no human attractiveness in the eyes of men.

If you want to progress spiritually, you must place value on the things that God places value on, and place no value on the things that God places no value on.

It's a Good Life - God Has Blessed Us

Here is a poem that blessed me recently:

"We've faced our share of storms

But days bright with the sun

Outnumber stormy days

At least fifty to one.

We've walked a few rough paths

But the smooth paths God has sent

Outnumber the rough paths

At least three thousand percent,

A hundred cups of joy -

A half a cup of strife -

That's how God blesses us

Through the seasons of life." (Author unknown)

Some Important Points to Remember

During our recent conference in Bangalore, we thought about the following matters:

- The Lord says that we must " be enthusiastic about the things of God" (Rev.3:19-Living). God wants us to be always on fire - against sin and for righteousness, and when praising God etc. Lukewarm people are vomited out finally.

- God looks primarily for faithfulness. We must be faithful: (a) in little things; (b) in the use of money; (c) in acting with consideration for others (Luke 16:10-12).

- Envy is a terrible evil, as we see in the cases of Cain, King Saul, the elder son (in the story of the prodigal son) and the Pharisees who were against Jesus because of envy. The words "envy" and "jealous" are words that we should study with the help of a concordance. We must cleanse ourselves totally from this evil.

- Isaiah 53 is the pathway for us also to walk - for it is only when God crushes us that "God's program will flourish through us" (Isa.53:10 - Living).

- We must seek for the power of the Holy Spirit and to be filled with Him continuously, since we cannot live the Christian life without God's power.

- A good conscience enables us to exercise faith against the mountains that stand in our way. We must not sit back and accept the things that hinder us in our walk with God. We must stand against them and remove them in Jesus' Name.

We must have discernment in these days as to what is merely human excitement and what is the moving of the Holy Spirit. God alone can give us this discernment, and we receive more and more of it as we grow up to maturity in our walk with God.

Chapter 30
Chapter 30

Some Aspects of Prayer

Jesus told us that we must keep on praying and never give up - like the widow who kept going to the judge for justice again and again (Luke 18:1 ff).

Our hearts must be both pure (our vertical relationship with God) and good (our horizontal relationship with others) - if God is to listen to our prayers (that is, if He is to pick up the telephone when we call - for prayer is like a two-way telephone-conversation - Psa.66:18). Then our praise will mingle with the praises of the angels in heaven, and ascend to God.

Seeing Our Own Need : Blind Bartimaeus crying out for sight is a good illustration of how we also should cry out to the Lord to give us the ability to see our own need, in the areas where we don't have light (Mk.10:46). Jesus is as willing to give us sight as He was to give sight to Bartimaeus. One of God's greatest gifts to us is sight - showing us our areas of need. That is one of the main things that we should pray about. Concentrating on the faults in other people is like rubbing sand in our eyes - that will make us blind.

Seeing the Needs of Others : Proverbs 11:24, 25 tells us that the generous man will prosper and that the one who waters others will be watered by God Himself. When we care for the burdens and needs of others, God will help us mightily. So we must seek to be delivered from a self-centred life where we think only in terms of our own needs. Job was healed of his sicknesses when he prayed for others (Job 42:10). Abraham had undoubtedly prayed for a child for all the years of his married life. But Sarah was still barren. Then one day Abraham prayed for some other barren women that they might bear children (Gen.20:17, 18). Then God not only answered Abraham's prayer for those women, but it says in the very next verse that "then the Lord opened Sarah's womb" as well (Gen.21:1).

We should pray even when we cannot understand the logic behind prayer. We are not to lean on our own understanding in the matter of prayer. Jesus prayed for Peter and so he came through that difficult time when Satan shook him hard and sifted him. Just imagine what might have happened if Jesus had not prayed.

Jesus was also humble enough in Gethsemane to ask Peter, James and John to pray with Him, in His time of pressure. It is pride that prevents us from asking others to pray with us and for us. We don't have to tell others what pressures we are going through, if we don't want to - Jesus didn't. But He still asked for prayer-support, and was disappointed when He didn't get it from those three disciples.

Gentleness and Humility - Taking the Yoke of Jesus

Eternal life is to know God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our Lord, Saviour and Forerunner (Jn.17:3). You must develop an intimacy with your heavenly Father and with Jesus, if you are to live a steady Christian life. That is the greatest safeguard against backsliding. It is not enough to hear stirring messages, even if they are anointed words from God. Even the manna that fell from heaven began to breed worms and to stink within 24 hours (Exod.16:20). It is easy to lose the freshness of your Christian life and to become stale in 24 hours!! But when the same manna was kept inside the ark (in the most holy place of the tabernacle), in the presence of God, it did not breed worms or stink for all the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, and even for the hundreds of years thereafter in Canaan (Exod.16:33; Heb.9:4). That is the power of the presence of God to keep everything fresh in our lives. So everything that you hear second-hand about the Lord, from others (in meetings and on tapes) must be taken before the Lord and converted into first-hand knowledge that you get from the Lord through his Word directly.

In Matthew 11:27-29 Jesus tells us that we cannot know the Father unless Jesus reveals the Father to us. In order to get that revelation, He invites us to come to Him and to take His yoke (the cross) upon us and to learn gentleness and humility from Him (read all those 3 verses together). These are the only two things that Jesus asked us to learn from Him. So you must look into the Word to see the glory of Jesus in these areas especially.

(1) Gentleness. First of all, Jesus' gentleness is seen in the fact that He always took the side of sinful people against the Pharisees. We see this in the case of the woman caught in adultery (Jn.8:1-12). And also in the case of the sinful woman who anointed His feet in Simon the Pharisee's house (Lk.7:36-50). As long as Simon did not have a critical attitude towards that sinful woman, Jesus never said anything. But the moment Jesus saw that Simon despised her, He rebuked him for his lack of courtesy and love for God (Lk.7:40-47). Jesus was very severe on those who were critical of repentant sinners. He always takes the side of the repentant sinner against Bible-thumping Pharisees. This is a great comfort to us to know. We must learn this gentleness from Him.

The second aspect of Jesus' gentleness is seen in his forgiving attitude towards those who harmed him. When people called Him the prince of demons, He immediately said that they were forgiven (Mt.12:24, 32). When they ill-treated Him, He never threatened them. He just kept quiet (1 Pet.2:23). This is the second aspect of Jesus' gentleness that we must learn. We must shake off the slightest thought of bitterness, revenge, a grudge, or an unforgiving spirit, like we would immediately shake off a lizard or a cockroach that falls on our hand.

(2) Humility. The first six verses in Matthew's gospel show us something of the humility of Jesus in the family-line that He chose to be born through. Jewish genealogies do not normally mention the names of women. But there arefour women mentioned here - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Tamar was the one who had a child by committing adultery with her father-in-law Judah (Gen.38). Rahab was a well-known prostitute in Jericho (Josh.2). Ruth was a Moabite - a descendant of Moab who was born through incest - Lot's daughter making her father commit adultery with her (Gen.19). And Bathsheba was the one who committed adultery with David. Why have the names of these four women (who were all connected in some way with sexual sin) been mentioned in the very first paragraph of the New Testament? In order to show that Jesus came into the world to identify with sinners and to save them.

Jesus' humility is seen in the lowly job (of a carpenter) that He took on earth and in the servant-attitude that He had all through His earthly life. A servant-attitude is one that is constantly on the alert, looking out for the needs of others and that quickly moves in to meet such needs as soon as they are observed (e.g. Jesus washing the disciples' feet).

Andrew Murray's book on `Humility' defines humility as: " Being willing to be nothing, so that God might be all in all". This is what Jesus delighted to be. This is what we must learn from Him.

So take the yoke of Jesus always on your neck and learn gentleness and humility from Him. Thus He will be able to reveal the Father more and more to you.

Chapter 31
Chapter 31

Heart Attitude Determines Divine Nature

We need to constantly remember the word in Romans 12:2 that transformation of our character begins with a change in our way of thinking (the renewal of our minds). God's thoughts are not like our thoughts - either about people or about circumstances. You must never look at anyone or at any circumstance the way the children of Adam look at them. You muat always ask yourself, " How does God view this person or this situation?" - and then align your thoughts with God's.

You should also not think (like human beings think) that just like it takes 25 years to get a Ph.D. (from the kindergarten), it has to take that many years to partake of the Divine nature as well. Think of a young man like Stephen (Acts 6, 7) who in just 4 or 5 years as a born-again Christian became so Christlike. Do you think that those who have been Christians for 40 years are going to be ahead of him in eternity? No, not necessarily. It is not time that determines whether we partake of the Divine nature - but our heart-attitude. David Brainerd (1718-1747) partook so much of God's compassion for the American Indians (in America), that he did a great work among them before he died at the age of 29. He did more for God in 10 years than others have done in 100 years. So you should not wait until you are old before you start serving the Lord. The Devil will tell you that since you are not mature, you must wait until you are 50 years old before you start serving the Lord. Don't listen to that liar.

The Fire of God

When Elijah was on top of Carmel, he told the 850 false prophets that " the God Who answers by fire is the true God" (1 Kings 18). Fire speaks of purity. Even heathen people recognize that. The fire is not emotional excitement or good singing. When Moses was in the wilderness shepherding Jethro's sheep, he saw a bush on fire among many other bushes. God dwelt in that bush. This is also the mark of the true church today: It will be aflame with purity. God is a consuming fire. The God Who answers by fire is the true God.

The fire always falls on the altar where the sacrifice has been placed in totality. This is why we keep preaching crucifixion with Christ in the church - so that God can always send the fire upon us. Jesus purified the temple of all who were seeking their own (their own honour and their own financial gain). This is what He does today as well. As they sold doves in the temple in that day, today preachers are selling " counterfeit gifts of the Spirit" in healing meetings, where they collect money from poor people in the Name of the Lord. One day, Jesus will drive out all these preachers who made money and sought honour for themselves through exercising God's gifts.

God has a plan and a pattern for building the church. If we are willing to acknowledge that what we are building is not according to that plan, and if we tremble at God's Word, and are humble and broken in spirit (Isa.66:1,2), then the Lord will look at us and help us to build His church aright.

In Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48 we see a plan given for the temple of the Lord. This is a picture of building the church. The servants of the Lord are described there ("the sons of Zadok" - Ezek.44:15-27) as those who minister to the Lord Himself (and not to the people). The rivers of living water (that Jesus spoke of in John 7:37-39) are mentioned here in Ezekiel 47, flowing out from such a church. God tells Ezekiel to show His plan only to those who are ashamed of the way they have been building their churches, outside of God's plan (Ezek.43:10,11). The fundamental law of God's house is mentioned here as holiness (Ezek.43:12).

That which is soulish, human and Pharisaical can look very similar to what is spiritual, Divine and Christlike. In Ezekiel 43:8, God says that the counterfeit temple is built right next-door to His true temple one - so that undiscerning people will be confused as to which door to enter by. This is why you must distinguish between what is merely intellectual and emotional fervour and the fire that is truly from the Holy Spirit. You must distinguish between Pharisaical righteousness and Christlike righteousness. You must distinguish between what is merely human goodness and what is the result of a person having partaken of the Divine nature.

Divine Love and Human Love

One distinguishing mark of God's love is expressed in Luke 6:35 as " expecting nothing in return". Human love always expects respect, love and gifts in return. But Divine love expects nothing. It has no inward demands on those it loves. God makes the sun to rise equally on the good and the evil, and is kind and merciful to the evil and the ungrateful. Only if we live in this Divine love can we be saved from all Phariseeism.

Pharisees and cultists cannot love those who are not one with them in every way. This proves that their love is human and not Divine. This is the root cause of their hardness and arrogance. Jesus said, " If you love and do good only to those who love you, you are no better than sinners ". Even the Communists love one another. The race of Adam just does not know how to love, expecting nothing in return.

Your "expectation must be from God alone" (Psa.62:5). Then you will never be disappointed. All bad moods, discouragement and murmuring are the result of expecting consideration, respect or gifts etc., from others. Your life will become glorious once you stop expecting others around you to change, or behave better, or to be considerate toward you.

A Narrow Gate into a Large Kingdom

Jesus said that it was as difficult to enter God's kingdom as it was for a camel to go through a needle's eye. However, what is impossible for a camel is the easiest thing in the world for an amoeba. It is all a question of size. The smaller we are (in our own eyes), the easier it is for us to get "an abundant entrance into God's kingdom" (2 Pet.1:11). The kingdom of God is very, very large. But the gate into it is as narrow as a needle's eye. To be proud and self-sufficient in ourselves, because of our gifts, talents, abilities, Bible-knowledge, or service for the Lord or our supposed "spirituality", etc., is what makes us big. All of you boys are good-looking, intelligent, gifted and accomplished, as well as knowledgeable in the Scriptures and spiritually-minded. My prayer is that you will never become big in your own eyes because of all that. Always remain small in your own eyes, and never despise any human being - whatever his denomination, his religion, or his lack of light may be. And when you see the worst of human beings, say to yourself: " There go I but for the grace of God".

Jesus always referred to himself as "the son of man" - or in other words "an ordinary man". This is what you must be too, towards everyone, at all times - an ordinary man. Never allow yourself to be puffed up, and never ever meditate on your own abilities or accomplishments. Always be thankful to God for His mercy that has made you what you are.

Acknowledging Salvation as the Work of God

Jesus said that it was impossible for man to save himself. Only God can give us salvation - from the penalty of sin (past), the power of sin (present), and the presence of sin (future). (See Mark 10:26, 27). Jonah was delivered from the fish's belly when he finally acknowledged " Salvation (deliverance) can come only from the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). The next verse states, "Then the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land".

Salvation is not a self-improvement program. That will only change you on the outside. But the work of God changes you on the inside. In Romans, you can see the development of the gospel message chapter by chapter:

Ch.1 to 3 - The guilt of man made plain.

Ch.4 - Justified (declared righteous by God) by faith.

Ch.5 - Freedom of access to God now through Christ's blood.

Ch.6 - Our old man crucified with Christ. So no need to be a slave to sin

Ch.7 - Free from the Law and from legalistic attitudes.

Ch.8 - Live in the Spirit now, putting the lusts of the flesh to death daily.

Then the conclusion of such a life is that " we are more than conquerors in Christ" (Rom.8:37). But the danger now is that you can begin to think that you achieved all this yourself - and become proud. So we move to Chapters 9 to 11.

Ch.9 - God's sovereignty. He chose only one of Abraham's many children (Isaac). He chose only one of Isaac's two boys (Jacob). And God chose Jacob even before the twins were born, " before either of them had done anything good or bad" (Rom.9:11). Thus God chose you, " not because you ran or determined, but only because of His mercy" (Rom.9:16). This is something that you must never forget.

Ch.10 - God's righteousness. Your own righteousness is like filthy rags in God's eyes (Isa.64:6). God wants to make you righteous inside, within your heart. Israel never attained to this righteousness, because " they sought to establish their own righteousness" (Rom.10:3)

Ch.11 - God's faithfulness. Even though Israel failed, God was faithful. God's Word has promises as well as warnings - and He is faithful to fulfil both.

Ch.12:1, 2 - What shall we say then? In view of God's mercies, you must present your body and your mind entirely to Him to fulfil his perfect will.

You are to give your all to God not because He threatens you with hellfire, but because He has been so merciful to you:

- forgiving all your past sins, including those you committed after you were baptized;

- not remembering your past against you;

- covering your nakedness and your failures from the eyes of others;

- blessing you again and again when you did not deserve it.

How can you ever take advantage of such a God? The man who buried his one talent did so because He thought his master was " a hard and austere man". Those who think that God is hard and austere will make their own lives miserable and will bury their lives and waste them. Thank God that you all have seen that God is a good God Who desires to give you the very best in every area.

Ch.13 - Submission to God-appointed authorities is one of the marks of God-fearing people who have submitted to the gospel.

Ch.14, 15 - You must receive other believers (even those in other groups), irrespective of your difference of opinion with them, just as Christ received you. Pharisees and arrogant Christians are exposed by Romans 14 and 15, which has no place in their teaching. You may not be able to work together with many believers. But you must receive all of them, just as Christ received you.

Ch.16 - The gospel message finally ends with verse 20 here which says that Satan will be crushed under our feet.

If you allow the Holy Spirit to take you all the way through to Romans 16:20, you will indeed be blessed.

Chapter 32
Chapter 32

God's Blessings are Not Merited

Many of the parables that Jesus spoke and many of the incidents of His life described in the gospels, are meant to teach us one truth: That God gives us what we do not deserve to get. His blessings are not based on our merit. Unless we understand this clearly, we will not have faith to ask Him in the Name of Jesus, to bless us - because we may feel that we are unworthy to get something from the Lord - especially on some day when we did not read the Bible or fell into some sin! Here are some of examples:

- The prodigal son was blessed beyond what he deserved when he came back (Lk15).

- The beggars who were invited in from the streets to attend the king's son's wedding were each given a free wedding suit and were blessed beyond what they deserved (Mt.22).

- The labourers who came to work last were paid first (Mt.20).

- The dying thief (who had lived continually in gross sin) and Jesus (Who had never sinned) entered paradise on the same day.

- Mary Magdalene (an ex-demoniac and probably an ex-prostitute) was the first to be given the privilege to see the risen Lord (Jn.20).

- " The Lord is merciful and tender toward those who don't deserve it" (Psa.103:8-Living).

Work Out Your Salvation

In James 1:19-25, we read that we must be " quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to get angry" in our dealings with everyone (v.19) - because we can never achieve God's righteousness through our anger (v.20). Beware of the " outgrowth of evil", just like grass growing between cracks in a concrete pavement (v.21). We must ensure that the roots of wrong attitudes are pulled out. Then there will be no outgrowth of evil.

After listening to the Word, we can become either forgetful hearers or active workers (working out our own salvation) (v.25). It is easy to quickly forget something that God showed us in the mirror of His Word (through what we read or heard). We must preserve what God speaks to us carefully in our hearts and work on it.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we read some things that we must read and meditate on again and again, if we are to save ourselves from being deceived. All our knowledge, zeal, sacrifice and gifts get us zero in God's eyes, if we don't have the type of love described in this chapter. We must look at this mirror and see ourselves, and work on where we lack, until our love is perfect - without partiality, and full of goodness.

Power of Christ's Blood

We must be bold in going before God, assured of our being accepted by Him, glorifying the power of Christ's Blood to declare us righteous even in the presence of a Holy God, overcoming the accusations of the Accuser of the brothers (Rev.12:10,11).

Such is the power of Christ's blood that on the day that Jesus died, two men walked into paradise - one who had never sinned even once in 33 years (Jesus), and another who had sinned all his life, right until his last moment on earth (the repentant thief). And both walked hand in hand in paradise as righteous men. This is the gospel. Many who hear this may take advantage of God's grace. Let them do so. They will destroy themselves thereby. But for us who are sincere, such a message makes us want to dedicate our lives even more to such a forgiving and gracious Lord, that we never want to sin even once any more. " The kindness of God leads us to repentance" (Rom.2:4). We must trust God to do miracles in our lives, and not limit Him by our unbelief, or by any sense of our own unworthiness.

I feel sorry when I meet believers who are quick to criticize others who are not in their group. Such believers have obviously forgotten their purification from their own former sins. The Lord showed me that if in John 8, they had begun to throw stones at the woman, Jesus would have stood in front of her and received the stones Himself, saying, "Kill Me first". That is what He did at Calvary. To stone another child of God is to stone Jesus Himself. Avoid it at all times.

Forgetting That Which is Behind

Every day of our life we must do as Paul did: " Forgetting the things that are behind (that is, everything right up until the previous day), and reaching forth unto the things that are ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus " (Phil.3:13,14). That means you must forget all your achievements and all your failures right up until that day. Then you must think only of one thing: How much more you have to grow in order to become like Jesus. Paul says that, that is the mark of a mature Christian (Phil.3:15).

May the new year be such a blessed year for all of you that the Devil is put to shame. It may be a year of reproach or ostracism from others. But it should be a year of closer fellowship with the Lord, where you live in the fear of the Lord each day, and where you forgive all those who harm you, and bless them in return. May it also be a year in which you walk in wisdom in all your dealings with others.

I mention reproach and ostracism, because that is going to be more and more our portion, as we approach the end of time. Jesus said, " If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household " (Matt.10:25). The habit of calling believers (who are not in their group) by all types of evil names is found in every group in Christianity.

I want you, my sons, to know that I am proud of you - every bit. You have faced a lot of pressure and opposition from Christians who criticize me (because of my stand for the Lord) - because you are my sons. But God has given you grace to overcome that pressure and to love those who hate me and hate you. I praise the Lord for that.

I look at all of you in the same way that God looks at you - "justified in Christ - just as if you had never sinned in your whole lives" - which is the way I seek to look at all sincere, wholehearted believers. Just as we rejoice in our own acceptance by our Father, we must rejoice over other believers too whom our Father has accepted.

Only Jesus would walk hand in hand in Paradise with a murderer who had sinned all his life right until his crucifixion!! That is grace. Where man's sin abounded, God's grace abounded all the more.

Justification

Recently, we got a wall-text printed for everyone in CFC that reads:

"Lord, point out anything You find in me that makes You sad" - (Psalm 139:24-Living)

That prayer is not referring to the past, but to the present. Our past has been forgiven and blotted out by our Lord - even if Satan and evil men don't forget it. Now, we are to deal only with the present. The Lord's Name is "I AM" (Exod.3:14) - not "I was"! So the Lord deals with us only in relation to the present - and never in relation to our past.

We must be grounded firmly on the truth that we have been justified (just as if I'd never sinned) by the blood of Christ (Rom.5:9). We have been declared righteous by God - not just acquitted! Think of the difference between the two. To be acquitted means that even though God declares us to be criminals, He declares us forgiven. That by itself would have been good news. But to be justified means that God declares that we are not criminals at all, but righteous and pure and holy as He is. This is what it means to be clothed with Christ's righteousness. Many are afraid to preach this, because it can be taken advantage of by insincere believers as license to sin. But, as a result many sincere believers have been deprived of this good news. If we are not rooted in the truth of our being justified, we will never make progress in our Christian life. We will always be "weary and heavy-laden".

Think of Peter's example. Just seven weeks after Peter himself had denied the Lord so badly, and that too thrice, he could stand up and tell others twice, "YOU denied Jesus....YOU denied Jesus" (Acts 3:13 and 14 - KJV). What boldness to preach against the very sin that he himself had committed less than two months earlier! Yes, Peter knew what it was to put the past behind him and to be "just-as-if-he'd never sinned", because he believed in the power of Christ's blood. He did not believe that his sin was greater than God's grace. He believed that " where sin increased, grace abounded even more" (Rom.5:20). This is the message with which we are to start the new year.

Transitioning to a New Year - Settle All Accounts

James 4:14, 15 tells us that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, whether we will even live. So we should be thankful for all the days that the Lord enabled us to live during the year that is over. Now in the new year, we are to live one day at a time. If we are to make progress this year, beyond what we have done last year, then we must liveeach day, obeying the exhortation: " Live in the fear of the Lord the whole day long" (Prov.23:17). That is the only way to make progress. We are not to be anxious about even tomorrow, even though we may make plans for the whole year or more.

We must close all our accounts with the Lord and with man before the end of the year. We must make sure that we ourselves owe no-one anything and that we have made all necessary restitution. And also that we have forgiven all who have done us any harm.

Paul's letter to Philemon has a beautiful message in it. There Paul pleads for Onesimus before Philemon. He says that whatever Onesimus had stolen from Philemon, Paul would repay himself. " Charge that to my account. I will repay it myself", Paul says (v.18). That is what the Lord says to us too: " If any of the brothers or sisters in My Body have done you some harm and thus owe you something, charge that to My account. I will repay you Myself ." So we should release every single one who has done us any harm. Don't "carry forward" anything into the new year.

We can serve the Lord and obey His commandments either through (1) the power of threats of judgment; or (2) the power of gratitude for what God has done for us. Under the old covenant it was the former. Under the new covenant it is to be the latter. For example, we must forgive others not because otherwise God will punish us by not forgiving us. No. We must forgive them because God has forgiven us so much and so freely.

It says about Hezekiah that " he did not render in return according to the benefit he had received " (2 Chron.32:25). It is good for us to ask ourselves whether we have rendered to the Lord according to the benefit that we have received from Him through the years.

Whereas the Israelites had Sabbath-days only once a week, we have Sabbath days every day. Whereas they had a year of jubilee only once every fifty years (after seven Sabbaths of years - 7x7 years -Leviticus 25), we have every year as a year of jubilee! In the year of jubilee God had ordained that every debt must be forgiven and every slave released. The Living Bible says, "What a happy year it will be!" (Lev.25:11) - for that is the meaning of jubilee (happiness). This is how the new year must be for you.

All past evils must be forgiven and " not remembered any more " even as God has forgiven and does not remember our past. In order to come to that place, we must deliberately choose not to remember our past and the past of others , every time Satan reminds us of it. We must also make a decision that we will never pass on anything that we know about another person's past that will hurt him . Then God will be gracious to us as well - for He will treat us in the same way that we treat others.

Chapter 33
Chapter 33

Humility and Faith

God will be able to back you mightily, if you remain in humility always. A humble man will not bring to mind the evil that others have done to him, but will always remember the good that others have done for him. He will also not bring to mind the good that he has done for others; A humble man is one who never glories in his human abilities or his earthly qualifications or accomplishments and who never makes anyone else feel small.

God can back you only if you have faith. You must believe that God will give you what you do not deserve. That is faith. None of us would ever have thought of giving the privilege of being the first person to see the risen Lord to an ex-demon-possessed Mary Magdalene. Only God would think of something like that. To believe that God will give you only what you deserve because you have been faithful is to limit God. God is a good God. That doesn't make us take advantage of Him. No. On the contrary it makes us serve Him even more.

Faith will strengthen you to command even mountains that stand in your way to move aside. Your motto for the new year should be " I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me" (Phil.4:13).

God Has a Plan for Every Believer

You must never forget in the midst of all your work and your studies that the Lord is also training you through all that you go through for future service in His vineyard somewhere. This is one of the greatest realizations that a young person of your age needs to have. I was about your age, when I realized that God had a plan for my life, and that, in spite of my failures and backsliding prior to that time (even after I was born again), God could yet make something out of my life. Now when I look back, so many years after that time, I am thankful for all the training that He gave me - even through my failures and mistakes. One of the greatest things that I learnt through my own failures was never to look down on any sinner in the world. It is impossible for me now to despise a sinner or a backslider. I thank God for that work of grace that He has done in me.

Since God has a ministry for you in the days to come, prepare yourself for it, by always remaining humble, never justifying yourself in any situation, crying out to God for help constantly, and hating all artificiality in your life. Let Psalm 73:25 be your constant testimony - a total devotion to Jesus Himself.

You must also learn from Jesus Who at the age of 12 said, " I must be about My Father's business" (Lk.2:49). He had a sense of responsibility towards God's work, and put that first always. If he could do that at age 12, how much more you should be doing it at our age - putting God's kingdom and His righteousness first, not necessarily in terms of the time you spend reading the Bible or in prayer or at meetings, but in your attitude towards sin and earthly things.

May the Lord give you grace for your heavy academic and work schedule. Pray and expect God to help you supernaturally when you are stuck somewhere in the midst of your computer-programming, etc. Those are the times when you can prove that your God is a Living God Who is interested in every detail of your life.

Sanctification - A Lifelong Process

Phariseeism and spiritual pride lie very close at hand to all who pursue righteousness. So these twin evils are not the prerogatives of any one group. These evils are not far from any of us. I find that it is easy to see these evils in others, but far more difficult to see them in ourselves. Artificiality is one of the things that religiously minded young people tend towards easily, and it kills spirituality.

You must work towards entering into a "perfect" death to sin in the different areas that you are battling in. You must not be happy with a superficial victory. Every desire is like an onion. There are layers and layers underneath the top one that you can see right now. Unless you deal radically with the layer that you see, you will never get to the layer underneath. Sanctification is a lifelong process of becoming like Jesus - for example, looking at girls the way He looked at them, looking at money and material things the way He looked at them, looking at your enemies the way He looked at His enemies, etc. That is a goal that will take a lifetime to reach. But you must work towards it. This is the meaning of verses like "Let us press on to perfection" (Heb.6:1), and " He who has the hope of becoming like Jesus, will purify himself even as He is pure " (1 Jn.3:3), and " Forgetting the things that are behind, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus " (Phil.3:13, 14). If you give up, in this battle, then the enemy will get the upper hand. On the other hand, if you keep on " suffering in the flesh" (putting your Self-life to death) in secret, you will stop sinning, as 1 Peter 4:1,2 says.

Never imagine that that you are being tempted in ways that others are not being tempted. Don't let the devil fool you with that lie, because that will discourage you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says: "Every temptation that you experience is the kind that normally comes to all people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to overcome; but at the time you are tempted, He will give you the strength (grace) to overcome and thus help you to escape. No temptation is irresistible." (Good News Bible and Living Bible).

All human beings are basically tempted in the same way - to do their own will. Sin is a large circle with many different sectors. But EVERY temptation is basically the same - to do one's own will and not the will of God - whether it be telling a lie, getting angry, hating someone, murmuring, committing fornication, or any other sin. Jesus also was tempted to do His own will. But He resisted that temptation asking for God's help (Hebrews 5:7) and so He never sinned (John 6:38). We can all now follow His example.

So don't look at the different sins as separate matters that are independent of each other. Some people are more tempted in one area and others in another. But in every case, to sin is to do one's own will. Ask God to help you - and the Holy Spirit will help you to put your flesh (Self-will) to death (See Rom.8:13 and Gal.5:24).

A fervent devotion to Jesus is what will help you to overcome and to be preserved along the right track at all times. At all times you should be able to say, " There is nothing (and no-one) that I desire on earth beside you" (Psa.73:25). Love for Jesus has the power to expel other loves (and lusts) from your heart. You should say, " I have set the Lord always before me (so that I fear to sin - like Joseph said); and He is always at my right hand (to give me grace not to sin)" (Psa.16:8). That is the secret of living in constant victory.

Taking a Stand for God

God is always looking for at least one man in a place, to take a stand for Him (as we read in Ezekiel 22:30). He found an Enoch at one time, then a Noah, then an Abraham, and later on an Elijah and a John the Baptist etc.

In Babylon, he found a Daniel. Although the Bible mentions Daniel's three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (who were later renamed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) in Daniel 1:7, yet it says in Dan.1:8 that it was Daniel alone " who determined in his heart that he would not defile himself". It was only then that the other three also had the courage to take a stand. There are many Hananiahs, Mishaels and Azariahs among believers in many places in the world, who do not have the courage to take a stand for the Lord on their own, but who will take a stand, if a Daniel arises in their midst and takes a stand for the Lord. So determine to be a 'Daniel' for the Lord, wherever you are.

We see something similar - but evil - on the opposite side as well. There were many angels in heaven initially who probably had some simmering discontent within them about something or the other. But they did not have the courage to start a rebellion until a Lucifer arose in their midst. When Lucifer (the head of the angels) expressed his rebellion, immediately one-third of the angels joined him (Rev.12:4). Those millions of angels were all cast out by God along with Lucifer - and they are the demons who possess people today. It is an eternal principle with God that he " removes the proud, exulting ones and leaves behind a humble, lowly people everywhere " (Zeph.3:11, 12). This was how He cleansed the heavens long ages ago - and this is how He cleanses the church today as well..

There are two movements going on simultaneously in the world now: The Daniels are gathering the twos and the threes to take a stand for the Lord; and the Lucifers are gathering their millions to lead people to impurity, to rebellion against authority and to disobedience to God's commandments. But it is the two or three with the Daniels who will win finally - because even one person with God is always a majority. If God does not get a Daniel in a locality, then the Devil will get someone to lead the people in his way. So it is essential that you become a Daniel in your place for God - one who begins by determining in your heart that you will not defile yourself by disobeying even the smallest of God's commandments, and that you will take a stand for Him, even if you are cast into a lion's den.

We pray that the Lord will give you grace and strength and wisdom. Here is a slight modification of a prayer that you may have seen: " Lord give me the courage to say NO to the things that you want me to refuse; the strength to DO the things that you want me to do; and the wisdom to know the difference ."

Chapter 34
Chapter 34

One Thing Is Needful

"Selection - selection - selection" - is the secret of a useful life. I pray that in all the pressure of your studies, you will be saved from what someone has called "The Tyranny Of The Urgent" and will learn one of life's greatest lessons - how to select the precious from the worthless, as the Lord told Jeremiah (Jer. 15:19). That will make you a spiritual man, and will enable you to live a truly fruitful life. Many things are lawful, but not all of them are profitable or edifying (See 1 Cor.6:12; 10:23). Many things that press on us as urgent are not as urgent as they appear. Jesus said that only " one thing is needful" (Lk.10:42). None of us have ever done this matter of selection perfectly in our youth, because our own desires and own reason have proved to be too strong for us. (I find that I am not doing things as perfectly as I should, even now, much less in my younger days).

But even our failures are part of the education that God allows us to have, so that we realize our helplessness and our foolishness, and cast ourselves on Him for His mercy (for our past failures) and on His grace (for strength for the future). You have the opportunity to advance ahead of even your parents - not just academically, but spiritually as well, because in both the academic as well as the spiritual, you have access to teaching that we never had access to in our younger days. Remain humble and broken and trembling at God's Word - always. God looks with favour upon such people (See Isaiah 66:1,2).

A Burning Desire to Be Like Christ

We must have a burning desire at all times to be changed increasingly into Christ's likeness - because God will not change us if we ourselves do not desire it. But if we have an eager longing to become like Jesus, and prove that by judging ourselves and purifying ourselves daily (1 Jn.3:2,3), then God will be delighted, even if our progress is slow. If we have a willing mind, God accepts that (2 Cor.8:12) - because God sees in the seed (the desire) the potential for the full-grown tree (likeness to Christ). So we must have a strong desire to change in every area where we see ourselves as un-Christlike. Thousands of believers pray that they might be like Jesus; but very few mourn in secret over their failures in their thoughts and attitudes, where they see they are not like Jesus. These latter few alone are the ones who really desire to change - and they alone will be the ones whom God changes progressively into the likeness of Christ.

We must always remember that we are all zeroes in God's eyes. It is Christ as a "1" in front of us Who gives us our worth. Be willing to be a nothing and nobody in man's eyes as well. Let all your spiritual development be in secret before God alone. You don't need a certificate of approval from any man. Your righteousness (like your bones) must be hidden from the sight of men (Matt.6:1). Your goodness alone (like the flesh that covers your bones) should be seen by others - so that they may glorify your heavenly Father (Matt.5:16). A skeleton is not attractive if it is not covered with flesh.

Be good to those who are evil to you. Learn a lesson from Abraham who gave up his rights to Lot. We read there that Lot chose for himself but God chose for Abraham - and God blessed Abraham (Gen.13:7-18). Isaac learned this from his father and so he also did not fight for the wells that he had dug. He gave up his rights. Then God blessed him too (Gen.26:18-25). It is such people that God blesses even today - those who pursue peace with all men. Be a man of peace then - at all times and with all people.

Growing in Grace

Our aim must be to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord (2 Pet.3:18). We must therefore pray like Moses prayed in Psalm 90:12, " Lord, teach me to number my days that I may apply my heart to wisdom " - to make the most of our earthly life.

Here is another definition of grace from 2 Cor.8:9: " Grace made Jesus Who was rich, poor for our sakes, so that we might be blessed ". This is what grace will do in our lives too. We will be willing to be small, unrecognized and even despised by others and poor in the eyes of others, if only we can be a blessing to a needy world. Jesus went around doing good, because He received grace from His Father (Acts 10:38). This is what grace can do for you also - make you a blessing to others.

When Jesus was facing a difficult situation, He did not pray `Father save Me from this hour', but rather, "Father glorify Thy Name" (John 12:27). This is what you must pray too in difficult situations. You must not seek for a life of ease, but for a life in which God is glorified, whatever the cost to you. Don't ask God to change the difficult people or circumstances that God has placed you with/in. Ask Him to changeyou in those situations. Those who keep praying like that will grow in grace - to be real saints, despite all their past failures.

Sins of attitude (like pride, selfishness, jealousy, love of money, bitterness, self-righteousness etc.) are less recognized than sins of action (like telling a lie, lusting with the eyes, theft, etc.) - and so they can destroy our souls more easily. Both groups of sins must be avoided. But you must be careful that you don't deceive yourselves with a false holiness (like the cults) by keeping the externals of religion (praying, Bible-reading, going to meetings etc.) and missing out on the most important thing - being pure (inwardly in God's sight) and good (towards others). We are to grow in grace, not in activity.

I hope you are experiencing the Lord's grace in all your work and study there. Think of that promise "My grace IS sufficient for you" (2Cor.12:9). God's grace is sufficient for every single task that you have to do (academic or otherwise), and it is sufficient for every trial and problem that you may ever have to face at any time. Develop the habit of making 5-second-prayers for help in the middle of your work, or in the middle of the pressure of your studies, and especially when you are facing temptation.

The Spirit of the Antichrist

The temptation that Adam and Eve fell for was not just to eat an attractive fruit. It was the temptation to be like God. This is what Satan told them: "If you eat of this fruit you will be like God" (Gen.3:5). This was the same temptation to which Satan himself had fallen, many years earlier. Now he sought to pollute others in the same way. Satan tempted Jesus also in the same way, " If you are the Son of God, use your power as God to turn these stones to bread ". But Jesus replied that he was here on earth as aman, and so said, that "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God" (Matt.4:3,4). It is amazing to see there how Jesus humbled Himself and referred to himself as a man (an ordinary man), who had to obey every word that God had given!

If we don't take God's laws seriously (for example, in sexual matters), because we don't fear Him sufficiently, that is an indication that we feel that we ourselves are like God, and can modify the laws that Almighty God has made, and make laws to suit the circumstances that we are in - which becomes just an excuse to satisfy our own lusts and passions.

It says about the antichrist that he will sit in God's house showing himself as God (2 Thess.2:4). This is the spirit of the antichrist - to behave like God towards other people, even in the church. If we seek recognition in the church, or if we are offended when others behave rudely towards us, these would indicate that we want to be like God - which is the same desire that made the highest angel into the Devil. John Milton in his poem "Paradise Lost" puts these words into the mouth of Lucifer, " It is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven". That is the spirit of the antichrist - wanting to lord over others. This is how cult-leaders rule over their cult-members.

Jesus Christ overcame that spirit totally, because he refused to be anything other than a servant all through His earthly life. He never sought to lord it over others, even though He was God. He had given up the right to equality with God. To grasp at equality with God is the very essence of the spirit of Satan. This is why salvation comes by going down at all times. In the high places of the world there is constant turmoil. In the low places there is perfect peace. There can be only one God in our hearts - either Self or the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to make the choice as to who will be Lord in our hearts.

It is good to ensure that you have given your whole heart to the Lord to love him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. I remember drawing a picture of a heart in my first Bible, when I gave my life to the Lord in 1959, and writing the Lord's name and my name inside it and these words beneath it: "His forever, only His". And after these many years of walking with my Lord, my relationship with Him has become sweeter and sweeter; and my attitude to everything around me has become more and more one of detachment. I pray that you will walk the way of fervent love for the Lord Jesus, such that there is not a cloud between you and Him at any time. Keep short accounts with God - meaning, confess sin as soon as you slip up. Don't delay even a moment. And don't ever get discouraged, because our Father rules over every circumstance in this world.

Chapter 35
Chapter 35

The Two Invitations of Jesus - Come and Follow

The Christian life can be summed up in the two invitations of Jesus: "COME TO ME" and "FOLLOW ME". We have to keep coming to Jesus, and not just once at the beginning of our Christian walk, because we tend to keep backsliding (slipping back) in small ways.

Come to Me : Many could not accept this invitation of Jesus, when He was on earth, because of just one reason: They were unwilling to acknowledge their sin. So Jesus said to them sarcastically, " I did not come for you "righteous" people. I came to call sinners - for only sick people need a physician " (Mark 2:17). We need to be constantly willing to acknowledge our shortcomings and sins and failings, if we are to keep coming to Jesus. Where we have sinned against men, we must be constantly willing to apologise to them. Where we are unwilling to apologise to men, it shows that we have pride still within us that needs to be cleansed away. Then we cannot come to Jesus. When we only see faults in others and no fault in ourselves, then we become like the Pharisee in the temple. Then we cannot come to Jesus (Lk.18:10-14). The tax-collector however said, " I am the sinner" (Literal). He felt he was the greatest sinner on earth. Paul felt like that too (" I am the foremost of sinners" - 1 Tim.1:15). Such people can come to Jesus easily. This does not mean that we keep on sinning, for Paul didn't. Neither does it mean that we fool ourselves to imagine that everyone around us is more spiritual than us. That is not humility, because Paul never felt like that. He knew that he was more spiritual than the carnal Corinthian Christians. But the closer we get to God, the more we will be conscious of the corruption of sin within our flesh.

Follow me : Even the disciples could not grasp the way of following Jesus until the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost - because of one reason: they were unwilling to suffer unjustly and endlessly. When Jesus told them that He would have to " suffer many things", Peter said that Jesus should not go that way. Jesus immediately identified that as the voice of Satan and told him to get behind Him (Matt.16:23). If we are to follow Jesus, we must be willing to suffer misunderstanding, abuse, false accusation, ridicule, mockery, insults, injustice and perhaps even physical sufferings. One who is unwilling to go this way all His life cannot follow Jesus.

So listen to these two invitations of Jesus constantly: "Come to Me" and "Follow Me".

Grace According to the Measure of Faith

The Christian life is not a life of following rules and regulations. Moses brought the Law. Jesus, however, did not come with a stricter law but with grace (John 1:17).

Grace is the spiritual equivalent in God's kingdom of what money is on this earth. As important as money is for living on this earth, even so is grace for living a godly life. The more grace you have received from God, the richer you are. Faith is like presenting a cheque in the bank to draw out the grace that you need for each day. The cheques are God's promises - and like cheques, they are of no use to you, if you don't encash them by faith. So you can get as much from the bank of heaven as you have faith for (that is, as much as you write your cheque for).

God told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Cor.12:9). There is no situation that you can ever face in life for which God's grace insufficient. Whether it is overcoming a persistent sinful habit, or facing a trial in the world, or facing misunderstanding from other believers - God's grace is always sufficient. But if you doubt that and write a check for a small amount of grace, then that is all that you will get. Ask boldly and you will receive grace to be an overcomer in all situations.

When a man of God was once facing a trial, he kept asking God to remove it. But God answered him with a dream in which he saw himself in a boat trying to cross a river and constantly hitting against a submerged rock that was in the way and blocking his passage. God told him that He would not remove the rock (the trial), but would raise the level of the water (grace) so that He could go over it. He could then be an overcomer. This is why God allows us to face many trials and difficulties in the Christian life, so that we can experience more of His grace and become overcomers.

Resting in the Will of God

When seeking to find God's will concerning anything, tell the Lord sincerely that you are willing to accept anything. Lay your all on the altar, examine your motives to ensure that you desire the glory of God alone in everything. Then you will find that He opens the right door for you. There may still be some uncertainty in your mind as you move forward. But God allows that, because He wants you to walk by faith - and certainty can at times be the equivalent of walking by sight.

Once you have decided, don't bother if things seem to go wrong somewhere or the other. Read Acts 16 and see how when Paul obeyed the 'Macedonian call' to go to Philippi, and went there, he was very soon locked up in a jail! But that was God's perfect will - because there was a jailer there who needed to be saved!

When we seek the kingdom of God first, all the other things we need will be given to us by the Lord. I have seen that ever since I left the Navy in May 1966.

God plans everything perfectly - even through your failures. In all situations He wants you to get to know Him. That is His aim. I want you, my sons, to know God even better than I have known Him. \

Wherever you go, during your summer vacation, retain a spirit of prayer. Let prayer become like breathing for you - as you talk to the Lord about the little things and the big things in life. This is what it means to "pray at all times" (Luke 18:1) and to " pray without ceasing" (1 Thess.5:17).

All Things Work Together for Good

Use every difficult situation that you face as one more challenge to your faith and to develop your character. Everything that happens in life is designed by God to train you for eternity. 2000 years from now, how you reacted to the opposition of people and circumstances that you encountered will be more important than the small frustrations that loom so large before your eyes right now. Jesus completed His education by enduring firmly against the constant contradiction of sinners - especially religious sinners (Heb.12:3).

You must be firmly rooted in Romans 8:28 at all times - concerning the smallest matters - if you are to be overcomers. "All things" in Romans 8:28 means "ALL things" - because we believe that God is sovereign enough to control the smallest of details of our daily life. So don't let your faith ever fail - that is most important. You mustnever get discouraged - no matter what happens. The mark of your faith is that you praise God. In Psalm 106:12, we read that the Israelites believed God and praised Him only after they saw the Egyptians drowned. But now we, who walk by faith and not by sight, can praise God even before we see the answers to our prayers, because we live by faith.

God will arrange many things to strengthen your faith. You may wish at times that your life was smooth and problem-free. But that way you would become a fat, flabby Christian, with no experience of God. But when you canbelieve in God in the face of the impossible, and when you can love others in the face of bitter hatred and evil, then you can have an experience of God's power that not only develops your character but also gives you a ministry to others. So God is planning and arranging your circumstances perfectly.

Remember always that " He knows every detail of what is happening to you " (Job.23:10-Living).

Debt of Love

The "oil in the flask" (that Jesus spoke of in the parable of the wise virgins in Matthew 25) refers not only to our hidden life, but to more than that. Consider the cases of the two widows in the Old Testament. One poured out the oil from her flask to make food for Elijah - and her flask was always full of oil (1 Kings 17). The other widow poured out the oil from her flask into the vessels of her neighbours (as per Elisha's command) and her vessel also remained full (2 Kings 4). So the secret of a full flask of oil is to live life serving others and not live selfishly for ourselves. Those who keep serving others like that in the Name of the Lord will be ready (like the wise virgins) for the coming of the Lord.

You have a debt of love (Rom.13:8) to pay back to every human being you meet. If you keep blessing the others with whatever God gives you of truth and blessing, instead of hoarding all that knowledge yourself, you will find that God waters you Himself (Prov.11:24,25). Then your life will always be fresh - and never stale.

When people "hate you without a cause" (Jn.15:25), what should you do? The answer is clear: You should "love them without a cause" ( without any reason for your love)!! Thus you will overcome evil with good. Thus, you will endure in love until the end towards everyone, so that you can be like your heavenly Father Who makes His sun to rise on the good and the evil. "He who endures in love until the end will be saved." (Matt.24:10).

Abide in Love

Everything that happens to you is a test of whether you can abide in love. This world is the training ground for us to reign one day in God's kingdom, where everything will be run by the law of love. If we qualify during this probation period, we will reign with Christ. If however we react badly to those who treat us badly, we will have failed in our probation. Always keep the eternal perspective in mind. And always remember that everything that is big and great in the eyes of men - including big jobs and earthly fame - are an abomination in God's eyes (Lk.16:15). The only thing of eternal worth is abiding in love and goodness and mercy. By the way, mercy, in the Bible, means 'acts of kindness' also - and not just forgiving others - as we see in the story of the Good Samaritan where the word 'mercy' is used to refer to his act of kindness (Lk.10:37).

If God wanted He could have made all His children themost intelligent people on earth - like Einstein - or the richest - like Bill Gates. But He didn't do that, because intelligence and wealth have no value in His kingdom. So while we thank God for whatever intelligence and wealth it has pleased Him to give us during our short stay on earth, we must never glory in those things. The only thing that matters is how much we can love.

All transformation begins in our thoughts - as we see in Romans 12:2: " Be not conformed...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (thoughts)...". It is in our thoughts that we become worldly or holy first of all; and it is in our thoughts that we are either selfish or unselfish.

In Hebrew 10:19-25, we read of the new and living way into the Most Holy Place that Jesus has opened through the veil of His flesh. But what do people do when they get into the Most Holy Place? Verse 25 tells us: They think about others, as to how they can bless them (' Consider how you can stir others to love...').

Jesus told us who would be at His right hand in His kingdom - those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. All these actions began in their thoughts. They thought of the needs of others and decided to do something about it. Others just thought about the needs of others and did nothing .

Chapter 36
Chapter 36

Thinking About the Needs of Others

We are told in Philippians 2:5 to have the same attitude that Jesus had. We have often thought of that chapter as the great chapter onhumility. But it is also the great chapter on thinking about the needs of others. Jesus thought about us in heaven and that was what made Him come down. His humbling Himself came out of His thinking about others. We are commanded to have the same attitude. There we have this tremendous exhortation: " Do nothing from selfishness..." (Phil.2:3). It is amazing that we can come to such a life here on earth, where we do absolutely nothing from selfishness. The gospel (good news) is the power of God unto salvation from all selfishness.

All the great missionaries in history thought much. They thought about the needs of others - and they did something about it, exactly as Jesus did in heaven.

May the Lord enable you to have the same attitude of mind that Jesus had. The promise in Hebrews 10:16 is that God Himself will write His law of love and unselfishness in our minds (thoughts). Let us allow Him to do that.

True Holiness is to Seek God's Glory Alone

What does it mean to be righteous and unrighteous? According to our human understanding (which usually tends towards Phariseeism), righteousness means to do a lot of good things and unrighteousness means to do a lot of bad things.

But Jesus gave us God's definition of it in John 7:18b, which I would paraphrase like this: " The one who seeks the glory of God is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him ". In the first part of that verse, Jesus speaks of one who seeks his own glory. So we see that the only way to be cleansed from all unrighteousness is to be cleansed from all seeking of our own glory, and to seek the glory of God alone.

The definition of `sin' in Romans 3:23 is " to come short of the glory of God". Whatever we do that does not glorify God is sin. Our praying, preaching, singing and doing kind acts can all be sin, if these are done for our own honour. It is the motive that determines whether we are righteous or unrighteous. That is why it is so utterly foolish to judge others, because we don't know the motives in their hearts. And in the same way it is totally wise to judge ourselves, because we do know the motives in our own hearts (See 1 Cor.4:5: " Judge nothing until the Lord comes Who will bring to light the hidden motives of men's hearts ").

When our motive is the glory of God, then even if we make a mistake in what we do, God will still give us 100% marks. But if we do an external action perfectly, but sought our own honour in it, God will give us zero. So we can never determine whether another person is righteous or unrighteous. Only God knows that. But we must be careful to preserve our own hearts in humility and purity, seeking the glory of God alone in all that we do. We should ask God to give us light in the darkness of our hearts, so that we don't touch His glory in any service that we do for Him. " Unto the upright, there arises light in the darkness" (Psa.112:4). That verse has been ringing in my ear, again and again of late.

Make the glory of God your main aim in life. True holiness is to seek the glory of God in everything that you do. That way you will also get the best from God in every area - even if you make a mistake in finding God's will in some area. When you are seeking the glory of God, you will not judge others, but only yourself. Leave the judgment of others to God. He can do that very well, without our help!

Some Points to Ponder

Here are some of the subjects that we shared at a recent conference here in Bangalore.

- The secret of Jesus' life was this that He took every Word of God seriously and trembled at it and obeyed it. Isaiah 66:1, 2 tells us that God looks at such people with favour.

- The four gospels clearly teach that Jesus was never against sinners. He was only against hypocrites. Jesus loves sinners and wants to save them. He blots out their past.

- If we see people as God sees them, we will value every single person as a person for whom Christ died. We won't despise any of them.

- God does not want us to live by a lot of rules and regulations as to what is right and what is wrong. That is to live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - and it always brings death. God wants us to live by faith - in constant dependence on God for guidance as to what we should do (right) and what we should not do (wrong).

- We must never be satisfied until "rivers of living water" flow out of us in every direction. For this we must seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit constantly.

- "Christ manifest in the flesh" means " Love manifest in the flesh". God keeps us on earth to train us in love, so that we can reign with Him one day. Revelation 20:4 says that those who were beheaded for Christ's sake will reign with him. We must be beheaded (spiritually) - our Adamic reasoning must be cut off. Then we can be grafted into Christ as our Head and become part of His body. That is how we can function as His body under His headship.

- God sends revival (according to Isaiah 57:15) only to those who are lowly and contrite in spirit.

- We must cleanse ourselves if we are to be valuable vessels of gold and silver in God's house (2 Tim.2:20, 21). Thus we can present ourselves to God alone as servants who win His approval.

- If God gave us His Son so freely, He will certainly give us all things freely along with Him. He will give us mercy (forgiveness of sins) and also grace (power to overcome sin and to live a Christlike life).

Mercy and Judgment

Here is a fresh revelation that God gave me recently:

"God uses the sufferings of godly people and even the sins that godly and ungodly people fall into, to expose the wickedness of the hearts of those who sit in judgment on them and accuse them."

Mark 3:5 (Living Bible) reads like this: " Jesus looked around at them (the Pharisees) angrily, deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need ". Even today Jesus is deeply disturbed whenever He sees in us an indifference to the spiritual or physical need of those around us.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus illustrates this. The rich man went to hell because he was indifferent to the need of Lazarus.

The parable of the Good Samaritan also illustrates the same truth. The priest and the Levite were indifferent to Satan having beaten up a fellow-believer.

The book of Job illustrates this truth. Even though Job said many wrong things about God, God blotted them all out, because with one word of repentance Job retracted all his words (Job 42:6). It was like bad sections of a tape being erased, while the good sections are retained. And so, all the complaints that Job made against God (recorded in the book of Job) are not recorded in God's book in heaven - for they have been blotted out. Only the good statements that Job made are retained there! How wonderful is God's forgiveness and justification! But the three self-righteous preachers, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who told Job that his sickness was the result of some sin in his life, were condemned by God, for judging Job without knowing Job's heart (Job 42:7). The wickedness of their hearts was exposed by the sickness of Job.

Similarly, God used the woman caught in adultery to show up the wickedness of the hearts of the Pharisees who condemned her.

So it is best for us to be merciful to everyone, and to judge no-one. Then God will be abundantly merciful to us. The primary characteristic of Pharisees is a lack of mercy. We must beware of this.

Jerusalem and Babylon

It is foolish to despise true believers in other groups, just because they differ from us in some small point of doctrine. That is the way to become a Pharisee. Those others may be seeking the glory of God much more than us - and that is what God looks at ultimately. This is what all cultists don't have the humility to recognize. They consider themselves alone to be the true church. Beware of such Pharisees.

There are really only two groups among believers (whatever their doctrines may be). One is Babylon and the other is Jerusalem. One is the harlot (Satan's counterfeit church), and the other is the Bride of Christ. The two groups are:

Those who seek their own glory & those who seek the glory of God (Jn.7:18; Phil.2:19-21)

Those who humble themselves & those who exalt themselves (1 Pet.5:5).

Those who seek earthly things & those who seek heavenly things (Col.3:2).

Those who seek to please men & those who seek to please God (Gal.1:10).

Those who seek only God's blessings & those who also seek God's approval (2 Cor.5:9).

Each of us decides which group we want to join. Our joy or regret in eternity will be dependent on the decisions that we make in our daily life today. So be wise - and take the long-term view.


Chapter 37
Chapter 37

Love is the Greatest

Never " forget your purification from your former sins, lest you become blind " (2 Pet.1:9). Never allow Satan or man to make you feel guilty about what the Lord has forgiven and said He will not remember anymore. But, at the same time, never forget how many sins the Lord has forgiven you, so that you "love the Lord much" (Lk.7:47), and forgive everyone readily (Eph.4:32), and thus are saved from that worst of all sins - Phariseeism.

Remember one thing: The greater the ministry that the Lord has planned for a person, the more the trials and testings that the Lord will take him through in his younger days - until he is at least 30 years old. That was the way that Jesus Himself was taken by the Father. God will take each of you the same way, for I believe that He has a ministry for each of you too.

And in all your testings, make sure that you remain rooted and grounded in love. Even if you never speak in tongues, or prophesy, or move mountains, or heal the sick, or give all your money to the poor, or die as a martyr, yet if you love God with all your heart (and therefore keep yourself pure), and love others with the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, you will qualify to be among the greatest of people that lived on this earth, for love is the greatest. Just like a regular medical check-up is good to see if everything is well with our physical bodies, it is good to have a spiritual check-up regularly too. 1 Corinthians 13 is a good chapter to use for such a check-up: The greatest is love.

Satan comes as an angel of darkness and tells people that money is the greatest or sexual pleasure or some other physical thrill is the greatest, or fame and position are the greatest. He also comes as an angel of light and tells believers that speaking in tongues is the greatest (1 Cor.13:1), or that spiritual gifts like preaching and miracle-working ability are the greatest (v.2), or that being generous or dying as a martyr are the greatest (v.3). But all that Satan says are lies. Love is the greatest. And our lives must be living demonstrations of this fact. Thus we will expose the lies of Satan.

The qualities of love described in 1 Cor.13:4-7 are mostly related to our reactions and attitudes towards others in the way they behave or treat us. Through such circumstances, God gives us a spiritual check-up.

To love God and others like this, you need to have a good foundation. Love is like a two-storey building. The foundation is God's love for us. The first storey is our love for God, and the second storey is our love for others. Your foundation can be strong if you meditate first of all, on how much God has loved you ("We love Him because He first loved us" - 1 John 4:19); and secondly on how much God has forgiven you (" He who is forgiven much loves much" - Luke 7:47). Then it will become easy to love God and others. So you should never forget your " purification from your former sins, lest you become blind" (2 Pet.1:9).

Enduring Love

Jesus loved His own unto the end (Jn.13:1). That is how the chapter describing the first `breaking of bread' meeting begins. And that must be true of us too at every `breaking of bread'. His love was manifested in His washing His disciples' feet - which speaks first of all, physically, of doing a dirty task for those who needed that done, and spiritually, of washing away the specks of sin that we see in the lives of others (instead of blaming them and condemning them).

In contrast to the spirit of Jesus, we see Judas Iscariot, remaining hard-hearted, even after Jesus had washed his feet, and even after Jesus had "honoured him by giving him the first morsel of the meal" (Jn.13:26 - Living Bible).

In that contrast, we see the spirit of heaven and hell that can be present among those who come to the breaking of bread even today. We will either follow Jesus in humble, lowly, loving service, with a forgiving spirit to our betrayers - or - we will follow Judas in hardheartedness and bitterness.

Satan was quick to enter Judas' heart (v.27), and then " Judas went out and it was night" (V.30). It is always night when Satan enters any heart. When a person keeps on resisting the Spirit's call to repentance, it is like keeping on stretching a rubber-band. After a while it will snap. Then that person loses his salvation and his heart's door becomes open for Satan and his evil spirits to enter. It is terrible to think of such an eventuality. But it has happened to many people.

There is nothing wrong in leaving a local church-fellowship and joining another church, if one disagrees with the first church. Satan can't enter a person's heart because of that. But there is everything wrong in having bitterness when one leaves one group and joins another. That is when Satan enters a person's heart.

The only way of salvation is to " love the Lord and all people until the end", like Jesus did.

Being Faithful With Money

You must be careful in the use of money, in these days, when you are a student. That will train you to be careful in later years and also bring you spiritual wealth - for God rewards those who are faithful in the use of material things.

Life is too short to waste on things that have no eternal value. So you must be very careful in the way you spend your money there. The way you use the money God gives you to live with on earth, is one test of the depth of your devotion to Him. You cannot afford to waste it on anything unnecessary. You must learn to be frugal in all your expenditure.

It is good to learn to be frugal with all expenses in your student days. It is good to keep a careful account of your expenditure - so that you can know where you are spending your money, and where you have spent too much, so that you can reduce your expenses in the next semester. You should also be careful to plan ahead in paying college bills, so that you can make payments on time, to avoid penalties for late payment; and always ensure that there is enough in the bank before writing a check, to avoid penalties for checks that are returned. It will also be good if you total up your expenses during the academic year, so that you can see whether you are keeping within the limits that the college expected you to spend, when they gave you the scholarship at the beginning of the year.

Later on when you get a job and start working, seek to make a good impression on your superiors - by respect, courtesy and absolute honesty. And be willing to work overtime and doubly hard so that they see that you can turn out good work.

Discernment about Music and Television

I want to remind you again of the great need of discernment in these days, if you want to avoid being deceived by Satan with things that can be explained by your reason as not being evil, but which at the same time do not glorify God. Music, for example, is one of those very dangerous areas in these days It is an area in which you must tread with extreme caution, for Satan is using it to lead millions away from the Lord. Every talent you have is the gift of God - and must be used for Him alone. God will honour you and answer your prayers, only if you honour Him in every area. So be radical in the type of music that you listen to. Classical and semi-classical music are all right for relaxation. But much of what goes by the name of 'modern music' these days is demonic - and dangerous. And as per the rule that we have had at home, we must not listen to the words of secular love songs, for the words of such pop-songs are very suggestive and can lead you into sinful patterns of thought. You should never keep any tapes or CDs of such music with you at any time. If you do have any, you must destroy them, just like the Christians in Ephesus did with their books of magic (Acts 19:19).

In the same way, be quick to turn away from TV programs that are subtly suggestive, for they can form impressions on your mind that will torment you with dirty dreams for decades. If you are careful in such matters, you will have no regrets in eternity. Keep your spiritual senses sharp for the Lord at all times. Don't let them ever be blunted with anything of the spirit of this world. Do a thorough spring-cleaning of your heart and of your possessions.

Keep Your Heart Pure

Remember the principles of God's Word for which you have seen us your parents stand, for many years. May the Lord give you grace to stand for those principles too, in your generation.

God is going to divide Christians into two groups when Jesus returns - those who feared God and those who did not (Malachi 3:18). Or in other words those who concentrated on cleaning the inside of their cup and those who kept only the outside clean (Matt.23:25,26). Those who fear God will be more interested in keeping their hearts pure before God than in having a good testimony before men. The only way to enter into a life of victory is by mourning over each sin, every time we fall.

There is a difference between having a clean conscience and a pure heart. A clean conscience is one that is free from all known sin. A pure heart however is one that is taken up with God alone and nothing and no-one else. " Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God". The pure in heart will see only God in every situation (Matt.5:8). Then you will not be taken up with evil people and difficult circumstances, but only with God. So if you have complaints and criticisms against people, it would indicate that your heart is not taken up with God alone - it is not pure. When your heart is pure and you see God alone, you will believe that He works everything for your very best - and you will praise Him continually. Even if all the people in the world and all the millions of demons in the universe, gang-up against you, they will still not be able to hinder God's plan for your life - for when God is with you, you will be an overcomer in every situation and you will fulfil God's perfect will for your life.

"As in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man " (Prov.27:19). One meaning of that verse is that when we impute bad motives to others for something they do, we are actually revealing the condition of our own hearts - for we imagine that they are doing things with the same bad motive that we would have had, if we were doing the same things. But when we live in a continual cleansing, we judge ourselves and do not judge others. Jesus told us to judge only the external actions of others (" By their fruit you shall know them" (Matt.7:16) - and not their roots (motives), which we cannot see!).

Juniper was a disciple of Francis of Assisi who lived in the 13th century. He always wore the simplest of clothes. One day he saw another of his brothers dressed in fancy clothes. He then said to himself, "Perhaps under those fancy clothes, that brother has a humbler heart than I have under these simple clothes." With such a pure attitude, he preserved himself from judging his brother. That is a good example for all of us to follow.

Put Away All Grumbling and Murmuring

When we look at the world around us, we see that believers and unbelievers both face the same problems - as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 2:14. Why is it like that? Why doesn't God protect His children from such problems? Because God wants to show in the final day, ` the exceeding riches of his grace' that made His children more than conquerors in the very same situations in which others grumbled and complained and were defeated. That will shut the mouths of all unbelievers who complained against God.

The world is full of people who grumble and murmur and complain against God and against people. The only way we can stand as a light for God in such a "crooked and perverse generation", is by eliminating grumbling and murmuring from our lives completely (Phil.2:14,15).

Many great saints and missionaries (and even those who have been tortured for Christ in Communist lands in recent decades) have suffered immensely for their faith in Christ and did so, without grumbling or complaining. When we see the video-record of their lives in the Day of Judgment, we will be ashamed that we complained and grumbled about trivial things in our lives! Anything that will not have any value 2000 years from now is not worth complaining about.

And further, God has promised to make all things work together for our good, if we love Him and seek to fulfil His purpose for our lives. Then what reason can there be for complaining?

God will not immediately punish those who harm us. That would turn God into a bully - which He is not. Instead of punishing them, God will give us grace to be overcomers, and enable us to " give thanks for all things " (Eph.5:20) and " for all men " (1 Tim.2:1), and to love them from our hearts. That will make the angels wonder far more than if God subdued all our enemies into silence with brute force.

Chapter 38
Chapter 38

The Mystery of Suffering

However thick the battle, just hold on there for the Lord. As the hymn says, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus". May the Lord give you grace and strength to face every situation, so that you come out of them all as a more godly man.

It is indeed a mystery as to why God allows His people to go through so much suffering when He can deliver them speedily without any difficulty at all. It was a similar situation that John the Baptist faced when he was so long in prison, without anything happening, that he wondered whether Jesus was really the Messiah (Matt.11:3), even though he had been a witness to all that happened at Jesus' baptism. Even today, many believers in prisons in China and other places (for the gospel's sake) must be wondering why God allows them to suffer for so long without any answer from heaven. " How long, O Lord...?" is their cry.

I was thinking of the family members of believers who were imprisoned in Russia and Romania etc., in the past, at times for 14 years at a stretch, without any relief. How difficult it must have been for those family-members to know that their loved one was being tortured and was suffering in prison, and there was no answer from heaven. Some of those believers were in solitary confinement for many, many years. They followed in the footsteps of the apostle Paul. I admire such men greatly. We can sympathize with suffering believers better when we ourselves face some suffering for Christ's sake.

God has some special ministry for you all in the future. I believe that with all my heart. God has His Hand on your lives. Your spiritual education therefore will be special.

The 6-year period from November 1969 (when the Bakht-Singh assemblies rejected me) to August 1975 (when CFC started) was quite a confusing time for me, because I did not know what God wanted me to do. And I had a wife and three children (at that time) to look after as well. It was like pitch darkness, with no word from heaven. But now when I look back, I see that it pleased the Lord to crush me and break me thoroughly in those years to prepare me for the ministry He had in store for me. If you love Him, He will crush you as well, until nothing of Adam is left in you. The greatest thing in the world is not the education that you are getting in college or the experience that you will get when working in some company. The greatest thing is the education that God Himself is giving you.

So never lose faith in these two facts:

(1) That God makes all things work together for good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28).

(2) That God will never allow you to be tested beyond your ability, but will give you the necessary grace with each testing (1 Cor. 10:13).

God's word is true and everything else is a lie. Trust in God with all your heart and do not ever lean on your own understanding.

May the Lord encourage you and make His face to shine upon you and grant you His mercy in all of life's situations. God has been tremendously merciful to us and so we are grateful for whatever He gives us - even for small mercies. Everything we get is far better than the hellfire that we deserve!

Trusting God in Adversity

We must read 1 Timothy 3:16 (" The mystery of godliness is great - Christ was manifest in the flesh and declared righteous in his spirit ") along with the next verse, 1 Tim.4:1 (" But the Spirit says that some will fall away from the faith"). In the last days, believers will not take seriously the calling to follow Jesus Who walked on earth in purity, humility and love - as a Man just like the rest of us. Jesus walked the way of suffering all through His life, and that way is not attractive to modern Christianity.

Here are three examples of how the Father allowed Jesus to suffer and to walk by faith, without any evidence that would satisfy His earthly senses:

(1) The last request that Jesus made to His Father, after having lived a life of perfect obedience to His Father for 33 years on earth (" Let this cup pass from Me"), was not granted.

(2) The last question that Jesus asked His Father (" Why have You forsaken Me") was not answered.

(3) The last that this world saw of Jesus was when He was stripped to His underwear, and publicly humiliated, and misunderstood as a criminal - when He hung on the cross.

How many are willing to follow the Lord, when He says "No" to their prayer-requests, and does not answer their questions, and allows them to be publicly humiliated - even when they have lived a life of obedience to Him. That is the life of faith - a life of perfect trust in the all-wise ordering of our Heavenly Father of all our circumstances, and a perfect submission to all those circumstances, without a question.

Respecting the Boundaries That God Has Set

Jesus prayed that Peter would not lose his faith when being sifted by Satan (Lk.22:31, 32). It is when we are in the midst of worldly company (as Peter was) that Satan tries to sift us and to lead us astray.

Since you are seeking to live for the Lord wholeheartedly, I am sure that you will be a target of Satan, and especially since we your parents are serving the Lord. But that is an honour to be high-up on Satan's hit-list. But it also means that we must be wise and careful. We don't have to be afraid - for we don't fear Satan any more. Satan was defeated once-for-all on the cross, and is like a paralyzed cobra now - not dead, but powerless over us, as long as we stay crucified with Christ. But Satan is deceitful and cunning and can draw us away from the Lord - especially through worldly-minded friends.

Adam's and Eve's failure in Eden came because they did not respect the boundaries that God had drawn around them . God is the only One Who has no boundaries. As created beings, all of us have boundaries drawn around us by God. We must respect those boundaries at all times. There are certain things that are forbidden. It is in our own interests that God has forbidden them. But those forbidden things can look very attractive. Therein lies their temptation and drawing power to our flesh.

"A serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall" (the boundary that God has set around him) (Eccl.10:8).

To live by faith in God is to believe that God's opinion of the things He has forbidden is correct and that Satan's and our friends' opinions of them are all wrong. We say, "Let God be true and every man a liar" (Rom.3:4).

Curiosity also is a dangerous thing. Adam and Eve were curious to know how that forbidden fruit tasted. This is how many are drawn into sin - to pornographic books and movies and to drugs etc. Adam by himself may not have eaten from that tree - we don't know. But he was led to it by Eve. And that is how it is with many young people. By themselves, they may not do many forbidden things. But they are led to those things by their friends. So you must learn to say `NO' to your friends - and be willing to be unpopular with them, because you want God's approval alone. Like Daniel, you must determine in your heart, " not to defile yourself " (Dan.1:8).

Chapter 39
Chapter 39

Purpose of Grace

I read a lovely word this morning: " Asleep? Get up! Pray to God that you will not fall when you are tempted " (Lk.22:46 - Living).

To avoid sin, because we will be punished if we sin, is the old-covenant way of avoiding sin (fear of judgment - the threats of the Law). Jesus has come and shown us a better way under the new covenant - to avoid sin because it dishonours God and is also harmful to us.

Every time you sin, you must say, "I did not get grace there". Because if you were under grace at that moment, no sin could have had power over you (as Rom.6:14 makes plain). And then, you must go to the next step and say to yourself, " I did not receive grace, because I was proud somewhere or the other - for God always gives grace to the humble ". So what you should pray whenever you fall into sin is, "Lord, show me where I was proud, that you could not give me grace ". Pride alone hinders us from receiving God's grace. Perhaps your pride may have been in your self-confidence that made you feel that you don't need to cry out to God for help "in your time of need". Perhaps that is why you fell. If so, you can learn a lesson for the future.

Eternal life is the life of eternity - the life that places more value on eternal things than temporal things - and that sees all earthly things in the light of eternity. This is the life that we are told to " lay hold of" (1 Tim.6:12) - like a man in a pit laying hold of a rope, so that he can be lifted out of the pit. Lay hold of eternal life with all your heart.

The first thing that we all need to work out our salvation from (Phil.2:12, 13) is mentioned in the very next verse (v.14) - grumbling, arguing, disputing, complaining, quarrelling, murmuring. In other words, never be discontent. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim.6:6).

A slave is one who has no rights, and who can never complain no matter how he is treated. In the first century, a slave had as much rights as a piece of furniture in the house. Jesus became a slave. That is our calling too. Then we shall never have any complaints as to how others treat us.

Live for the things that Jesus lived for.

Heart of Goodness

Jesus said that only One Person was "good" and that was God Himself. What we call 'good' on earth is a relative statement that falls far short of the goodness found in God. God's goodness is found in the fact that He always desires the very best for every man. To a rebellious Israel, God said through Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer.29:11). This goodness is what God says, He will " write on our hearts" (Heb.8:10). To partake of God's nature is to have a heart of goodness towards all human beings - wishing only the very best for them, at all times, irrespective of how they treat us. Only God can write such a good nature into our hearts. Any goodness that we produce ourselves will only be superficial, that morally improves our exterior. We need a change in our hearts. And God will do that for all who mourn whenever they see a wrong attitude towards someone in their hearts.

"The glory of God is His goodness" (Exod.33:18, 19). This is what God told Moses when Moses asked to see the glory of God. This is the glory that "all men have fallen short of" (Rom.3:23). And this is the glory that Jesus has come to restore to us. So let us mourn each time we find ourselves coming short of goodness to others. Let us fight the battle here and be good to one and all.

But the Holy Spirit warns us that in the last days, " evil men will become worse and worse" (2 Tim.3:13). And on the last page of the Bible we read, "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy" (Rev.22:11 - Living). Why is there such an exhortation in Bible that urges evildoers to continue doing evil and remain in sin? Because, if, a person, after reading the whole Bible (that urges holy living) comes to its last page and still wants to continue in evil, then there is no hope for him. God has given up on him. So let him continue doing evil and destroy himself.

Turning Failures into Blessings

My own experience has been that the more I have seen how much I grieved the Lord in my younger days, the more zealous I have been to do more for the Lord in the days to come. The one who has been forgiven more always loves the Lord more. Thus, even my failures have turned out to be a blessing to me - because they have made me love the Lord more for having forgiven me so much. This is why I have felt constantly that I have to do so much more for him - for I have been forgiven very, very much. Because of that I have never despised any brother in any CFC church, no matter how deeply he may have fallen. This has also has saved me from being puffed up when I get victory. It is Jesus Who keeps me from falling. How wonderful that God is to be able to turn even our failures into glory for His Name.

There is a first century writing (written between 70 and 132 AD), called " The Epistle of Barnabas" in which the author writes, " When the Lord chose His apostles who were to proclaim His gospel, He chose those who were sinners above every sin, in order that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners" . God does this so that no man can boast. This is what has kept me from boasting all these years, for I know it was " amazing grace that saved a wretch like me".

Be faithful now in the little things - and then the Lord will commit much more to you in the days to come. God has a special plan for your life. Make sure that it is fulfilled. All that you have experienced in your life and in your encounters with other Christian groups so far, are preparing you to fulfil God's perfect plan.

Some Insights from 'THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS' by C.S.Lewis

I read something from `THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS' the other day about sex, love and marriage that I am sure will bless you. C. S. Lewis who wrote it had amazing insight. If you can get a hold of that book there, get it and read it. It is all about how Satan trains his demons to tempt men to sin.

Screwtape (the senior devil) tells Wormwood (the junior devil) that the demons have succeeded in convincing most men that "a curious and usually short-lived, experience which they call 'being in love' is the only respectable ground for marriage" and that "the very idea of marrying with any other motive is ridiculous".

He goes on to say that demons have also influenced artists to draw the female figure falsely - "pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer, more slender and shapelier than nature allows any of them to be, in real life" . This results in men desiring a type of female that does not exist - which leads them to frustration!

In another chapter, C. S. Lewis talks about the up and down experiences that all human beings have in their feelings and how Satan seeks to exploit this for his evil purposes. Lewis emphasises that the Lord "relies on our troughs even more than on our peaks". In other words, it is when we are feeling "down" that the Lord seeks to draw near to us. The Lord allows such feelings to come to us, in order to strengthen our wills so that we obey the Lord even when we have no sense of His presence. It is in the "trough" periods that we can be tempted with many sensual temptations, particularly those of sex.

Justified to Justify Others

The secret of remaining in humility at all times is to look at Jesus all the time and compare our lives with His alone. This is the theme of the letter to the Hebrews - to look at the earthly life of Jesus. As long as we meditate on the selfless way in which He came from heaven and lived here on earth to serve and save others, we can never become proud, for we will see our own selfishness. And we will put our mouth in the dust constantly in repentance. We will then be able to treat others in the same way as the Lord treats us. As He justifies us, we will justify others too.

When we see that God has been so good to us as to cover the filthiness of our flesh, we too should be ready to cover the filthiness of others, instead of criticizing them and condemning them. In Zechariah 3, we read how Joshua stood with filthy garments before God the Judge. Satan was there to accuse him and Jesus was there as his Advocate. Zechariah was a bystander in the court. Satan's accusations were nullified, because God clothed Joshua with clean garments (the righteousness of Jesus). Zechariah was so excited by this that he added, " Let them put a clean turban on his head also". Thus he became a co-worker with Jesus to justify his brother. This is what we must do too. There are only two ministries possible when we see evil in others - accusation or intercession. We can choose which we want. Satan accuses. Jesus intercedes.

True and Counterfeit Holiness

Any holiness or zeal that is not coupled with a deep humility, is counterfeit. It is a holiness produced by the law, by human effort. There are many who, by practising yoga, have conquered some of the external manifestations of anger and sexual lust (but these sins still remain in their hearts). Such `holiness' is counterfeit. Jesus always delivers us from sin within our hearts. True holiness is partaken of through grace - and God gives His grace only to the humble. So that is the way to identify true holiness - by its being accompanied by the humility of Christ. And as for zeal, many Communist youth have more zeal than others, but it is a human zeal.

Jesus told us to learn only two things from Him - humility and gentleness (Matt.11:29). Where these two lessons have not been learnt, everything else is in vain.

Love - The Mark of Jesus' Disciples

Jesus did not say that people would recognize us as His disciples when we agreed with each other or when we work together in one group, but when we love one another (John 13:35). When Paul and Barnabas disagreed sharply about John Mark (Acts 15:39), they did not fight with each other, but separated from each other in peace, and continued to love one another. As a result, God blessed the labours of both of them.

If however either Paul or Barnabas had called the other brother a `harlot' or `antichrist', then God's blessing would certainly have been withheld from the one who had a wrong attitude towards his brother. It is best therefore to leave others alone who disagree with us or leave us, and to concentrate on the work that God has given us to do. It is important that the platform for our ministry in the church is always positive and never negative - not anti-anyone, but pro-Jesus Christ . We will continue to expose error and false doctrine and un-Christlike practices among preachers. But we are not against them. We are only against the Devil.

Chapter 40
Chapter 40

The New Covenant Life

The new covenant is an agreement that God has made with man, " signed with Jesus' blood" (Heb.13:20 - Living). Now we have to put our signature on it with the blood of our Self-life. There is no other way to enter into that agreement with God. It is because many do not sign on the dotted line with the blood of their Self-life that they never enter into a satisfying Christian life.

Jesus' covenant with His Father throughout His life was that He would never once use His body to do His own will (Heb.10:5ff). He would put his own will to death and thus He signed that covenant with the "blood" (crucifixion) of His own will. We are now called to fellowship with Him in the same way. This way is not a strain to walk in at all. On the contrary it will lead you to the happiest life (free from strain) that you can ever live. It is to this covenant that we testify when we get baptized and also when we break bread together.

The new wine that Jesus spoke of in Luke 5:38, refers to the life of God that we can partake of under the new covenant. The old wine refers to the life under the Law - a life of rules and regulations. The two trees in the Garden of Eden also symbolize life under these two covenants. A life held back from sin (and looking apparently upright) by many rules and regulations (as found in cult-groups) leads to death, as God warned Adam about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. True Christianity is a life that springs from partaking of the life of Jesus within, that warns us that certain things are dirty and certain other things are clean. We have freedom of choice, but we don't avoid things because we are bound by any rules ("Touch not, taste not" - Col.2:21), or to impress other people.

The new wineskin speaks of the Body of Christ, which is built, when we present our body to Him as a living sacrifice every day, and ask Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit, so that the same work that the Spirit did in Jesus' body in His earthly days can be done in us too. This makes us one with others who are walking the same way. Thus we are made into one body in Christ, the church, in which He equips us with gifts necessary to build one another up.

Thus Satan is crushed under our feet (Rom.16:20). When we give room to Satan to accuse us or to make us feel guilty, then he sits on our head. But his place is under our feet.

Sin is defined (in Rom.3:23) as coming short of God's glory - and God's glory was seen in the life of Jesus. So remember that anything that we cannot do in fellowship with Jesus is sin.

Under the old covenant, sin could only be covered (by the blood of bulls and goats), and not removed (Psa.32:1, 2). It could not be cleansed or blotted out. There was a constant remembrance of it year after year (Heb.10:3, 4). Under the new covenant however all our sin is not onlycleansed by Jesus' blood, but God promises that He will never remember them any more (Heb.8:12). You must understand this difference between the two covenants clearly.

Living in The Presence of God

The Holy Spirit reveals to us in Acts 2:25, 26 as to why in the days of His flesh, Jesus was never shaken by any trial or temptation, and why His heart was always full of joy: He always set the Father before Him. He lived conscious of the fact that His Father was always in front of Him. Therefore the Father was also at His right hand to support and help Him (as it says in the same verse).

We know how much we are kept from sinning even when a godly brother is with us. How many sins we would have avoided, if even an ordinary brother had been with us at the time when we were tempted. How much more we would have been saved from sin if we had recognized the presence of the Lord with us at that time. We would have been saved from anger and filthy reading and filthy TV viewing in the past if we had recognized the presence of the Lord in front of us always. How easy it would have been to stand up for the Lord in the midst of unbelievers, if we had only sensed the presence of the Lord with us on such occasions. This is why you must now seek to develop the consciousness of the presence of the Lord with you. This is not imagining something that is untrue - but rather recognizing something that is true.

Because we live so much in the flesh, unfortunately we sense only what our body senses. We need to develop our spiritual sense to recognize the presence of the Lord with us.

Faith - In the Head or In the Heart?

God asked Jeremiah a question in Jer.32:27: " Is anything too difficult for Me?" If we were asked that question, we would all answer correctly: " No. Nothing is too difficult for God." But if, in the moments of trial and testing, we don't actually trust God with our hearts, then we will act as though many things were difficult for God. Faith in the head is quite different from faith in the heart.

To understand the background in which Jeremiah prophesied, let me tell you of Israel's history up to that time. The nation of Israel had left Egypt around 1490 B.C. and entered Canaan around 1450 B.C. But about 500 years later, in 975 B.C., in the time of Rehoboam (Solomon's son) they split into two nations. The northern nation called itself Israel and comprised of 10 tribes. The southern nation called itself Judah and comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Israel (the northern nation) soon became terribly idolatrous and was sent by God into captivity around 730 B.C. - after existing for 250 years as a nation. They were enslaved by Assyria who were the world rulers of that time.

100 years later (around 640 B.C.), God sent His prophet Jeremiah to the southern nation of Judah, and told Judah to take a lesson from what had happened to the northern kingdom (Israel), lest God punish them also in the same way. But Judah did not listen to Jeremiah, imagining that they would never be punished by God - just like many believers think today.

But after Jeremiah had prophesied to Judah for over 40 years, God sent Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to attack Jerusalem (around 600 B.C.). Babylon had replaced Assyria by then as the world's only superpower. It was at this time that the events of Jeremiah chapter 32 take place.

God had already told Jeremiah that after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the nation of Judah would come back to Jerusalem (Jer.29:10). But no-one believed that. Then God told Jeremiah to demonstrate his faith in God's promise by a significant action. He asked him to buy a plot of land in his hometown of Anathoth and to register the sale and to preserve the sale document in an earthen vessel (Jer.32:14). Humanly speaking that was the most foolish thing to do, at a time when everyone was selling property, because the enemy was plundering the land. Jeremiah however did that to prove that he believed what he preached that God's people would come back and occupy the land once more. His response to God at that time was: " Lord, nothing is too difficult for you" (Jer.32:17). (It is good for you to read that whole chapter - Jeremiah 32). Jeremiah's relatives returned, seventy years later, along with Zerubbabel (Neh.7:27) and lived in Anathoth - undoubtedly in the plot that Jeremiah had purchased 70 years earlier (Neh.11:32).

God expects us to act in faith like that, on any matter that He has spoken about, clearly in His Word. But you must act in faith only on the basis of some clear promise from God in Scripture - as in Jeremiah's case. You cannot imitate what others do. Here is a warning: Hebrews 11:29 says that the Israelites went through the Red Sea acting in faith on a specific word from God; but when the Egyptians tried to imitate that they were drowned. That is a warning to everyone not to imitate the faith of others.

When God took the Israelites through the Red Sea, the waters opened up before them and a way was made in front of them, before He asked them to walk through it. That was not walking by faith, but by sight. But the Israelites had had no experience of God up to that time. So God did a miracle for them even before they took a step. He only asked Moses to stretch out his rod over the sea (Exod.14:16, 21).

But 40 years later, when God told the Israelites to cross the River Jordan, it was different. This time, He told the priests to put their feet into the waters, while the river was still flowing. Only when they took that step of faith did the waters part and a way open up for them (Josh.3:8, 15). So the priests' feet had to get wet this time. God expected more from the Israelites by then, because they had seen His miracles for 40 years in the wilderness. More is required from those who have received more from God.

We see another illustration of this principle when the Lord told Peter to come out of the boat and to walk on the water. Peter had to step out in faith. As he did so, he found the waters as solid as rock underneath his feet.

Remember always that there is no problem that you can ever face that is too hard for God to solve. He has wisdom and power to handle every difficult situation. So trust Him to act on your behalf always. He will never scold you for lacking in wisdom -for not knowing what to do in some difficult situation (See James 1:5b). He is your loving, understanding, compassionate Father.

But you must never step out in presumption. Some Christians don't take any medicines when they are sick, even when there is no Scripture to support their position. That is foolishness and tempting God. Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit) told Timothy to take some wine (as a medicine) for his frequent stomach-ailments (1 Tim.5:23). The Septuagint (which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament) says in Proverbs 18:9: "He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer and he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide " (Amplified Bible-Classic Edition). [That, by the way, is the only place in the Bible, where the word "suicide" is mentioned.]

We must act only on the basis of a specific Word of God. The priests put their feet into the River Jordan only because God had specifically told them to do so. Peter stepped out into the sea only because the Lord specifically told him to come out of the boat. Faith is vastly different from presumption.

A Higher Call

The Lord's call to John from heaven was "come up here" (Rev.4:1). In Rev.1:9, we read that John was on earth - on the island of Patmos - and the Lord showed him many things about the conditions of the churches (Rev.2 & 3). Then the Lord invited John to come up higher, into the heavenly places. Then he saw many other things that he would never have seen if he had stayed at the earth-level. The Lord did not take him higher. He had to respond to the Lord's invitation and choose to go up higher himself. If he had not responded to that invitation, the book of Revelation would have ended with three chapters! It is the same with many believers. When the Lord invites them to come up higher to a heavenly way of thinking, they don't respond, and so they remain earthly all their days. Only those who are willing to be spiritually violent to their lazy and slack attitudes towards spiritual things and to the opposition and traditions of men will ever be able to possess the kingdom of heaven (Matt.11:12).

"Light arises in the darkness for the upright" (Psa.112:4). This whole psalm (Psa.112) is a wonderful one that tells of the blessings of being absolutely upright and righteous in all areas of our life. Then it says that those who hate us (especially the Devil, and anyone who is in fellowship with him) will be vexed when they see how well it is going with us (last few verses).

So, even though our past failures may have been many and so great that we would have to hang our heads in shame, yet we lift up our heads, because we have been " accepted in the beloved (Son)" (Eph.1:6-KJV), and our past has been " blotted out " forever (Hebrews 8:12 - " I will not remember their sins any more " and especially Isaiah 44:22 - " I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions. Return to Me for I have redeemed you ". Remember these two verses by heart).

Chapter 41
Chapter 41

Life Attested By God

Peter referred to Jesus as a Man attested by God (Acts 2:22). Since we know that God loves us as He loved Jesus (John 17:23) we can be sure that He will do for us all that He did for Jesus too ( if we fulfil the same conditions that Jesus did). We can expect God to attest our lives also - not necessarily with miracles, but in whichever way He chooses best. John the Baptist (whom Jesus called the greatest prophet of all - Matt.11:11) never did a single miracle (John 10:41) and He never prophesied about the future. Yet God attested his life and ministry amazingly.

We must be a living demonstration to the world around us of the fact that our God rules in the heavens and cares for us and that He is always on our side against Satan, and that He desires to " supply all our needs by His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19), and that He will crush Satan under our feet (Rom.16:20).

God may allow us to face many trials and testings. But He will never allow them to become more than what we can bear at each stage of our spiritual development (1 Cor.10:13). But in every trial, He will make us come out triumphant (2 Cor.2:14). We are not promised clear skies at all times. But we are promised victory at all times.

Here is a lovely poem that I read on those lines:

WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED

"God has not promised skies always blue,

Flower-strewn pathways, all our lives through;

God has not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know

Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;

He has not told us we shall not bear

Many a burden, many a care.

God has not promised smooth roads and wide,

Swift, easy travels, needing no guide;

Never a mountain, rocky and steep,

Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God has promised strength for the day,

Rest for the labour, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love." (Annie Johnson Flint)

Faith to Receive Physical Healing

1 Corinthians 6 tells us four things about our bodies.

(1) Our body is a member of Christ (v.15).

(2) Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (v.19).

(3) Our body is to be for the Lord alone (v.13).

(4) Then the Lord is for our body (v.13).

Therefore, on the basis of those Scriptures, we can claim a measure of the life of Jesus for our body as well - because we need health in our body to serve the Lord. We can claim ataste of the resurrection-life of Jesus for our bodies - " a foretaste of the powers of the future age" as it says in Hebrews 6:5. We can ask for health for our bodies - unless God delays or denies that healing for a higher spiritual purpose (as in the case of Paul's thorn in the flesh - 2 Cor.12:7-9). So whenever we are sick, we must ask God to heal us in Jesus' Name - or give us His grace to handle our sickness - whichever He thinks is best for us spiritually.

Regarding Temperaments

In my younger days, I used to wish that I could be an outgoing, extrovert like others around me, and not the shy, introvert that I was. But I discovered gradually that every temperament has its own unique strengths as well as weaknesses. I then realized that if I had been an extrovert I may have had certain advantages in reaching out to others as an evangelist, but I would not have been methodical (as introverts are) and thus been able to teach the Bible and write books. God has made each of us different, with a purpose. He made us in our mother's womb, to be temperamentally suited for the specific task that He had designed for us in Christ's Body. So we don't have to envy another person's temperament, intelligence, or gifts. Even the drive to work hard and to get things done is part of the temperament of the choleric extrovert. So we don't have to be discouraged if we don't have the same drive that another person has. God made no mistake in making us exactly what we are. We must accept ourselves as God made us, in relation to our basic temperament and our physical features, without any complaints and without wishing that we were like someone else. But we must seek for God's help to overcome the specific weaknesses of our temperament.

Here is a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the four basic temperaments:

EXTROVERTS:

1. CHOLERIC. Strong-willed, determined, independent, decisive and confident. But they get angry easily and are domineering. inconsiderate, self-sufficient and unemotional.

2. SANGUINE. Outgoing, warm, friendly, talkative and carefree. But they are weak-willed, undisciplined and undependable.

INTROVERTS

1. MELANCHOLIC. Analytical, sensitive, perfectionist, aesthetic and idealistic. But they are moody, critical, impractical, unsociable and easily discouraged.

2. PHLEGMATIC. Calm, easy-going, laid-back, diplomatic and humorous. But they are stingy, fearful, indecisive, procrastinators and sluggish.

So which would you choose?? Praise God that the Holy Spirit has come to help us overcome the weaknesses of our temperament and to make us balanced and Christlike. So if you submit to the Holy Spirit each day, He will gradually change you into the likeness of Christ and you will gradually overcome every temperamental weakness that you have.

We must never forget that the body we have is called " the body of our humble state" (Phil.3:21). It is improper for us therefore, as long as we are in this body, to exalt ourselves over even a single other human being in any way, or to make anyone else feel small by anything that we do or say. Jesus " being made in the likeness of men became a bondservant" (Phil.2:7). That means that He realized that the only proper position for a man to take is that of a servant.

It is not godliness by itself that brings great spiritual gain into our lives, but godliness with frugality and contentment (1 Tim.6:6 - Paraphrase). Godliness without frugality and contentment is a counterfeit. When we have learnt to be content with our financial circumstances and never compare our lot with that of others who have more, and if we have learnt to live frugally with what we have, then we have learnt two of life's most important lessons. God keeps us on earth to teach us to live simply and to give thanks for all things. Let us learn those two lessons quickly.

Spirit of Thankfulness

The Lord's earnest desire and longing on the last night before His crucifixion was to break bread with His disciples (Luke 22:15). We too must have a similar longing for fellowship with the Lord and with all His children. Only then will the breaking of bread become meaningful to us. Jesus took the bread and gave thanks (1 Cor.11:24). The one bread symbolizes that we are one Body with the others whom we break it with (1Cor.10:17). Jesus giving thanks teaches us to give thanks for all the members of the Body of Christ.

When we have complaints against one another, Satan sits on top of our heads. But his place is under our feet. A spirit of thankfulness to God and for all the brothers and sisters in the church at all times ensures that Satan will always be under our feet.

It is also by a spirit of thankfulness for our brothers and sisters that we know that we are growing in fellowship with one another. An apparent growth in holiness without corresponding growth in fellowship with other believers is a deceptive growth . It is a spirit of thankfulness that indicates that we are actually rooted in humility, which is the only ground on which true holiness grows.

The Balanced Gospel

The balanced message of the gospel is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. In Chapters 1 to 3, there is not a single exhortation. Those chapters only describe what God has done for us. The next three chapters are then full of exhortations of what we must do for God. These are the two sides of the gospel coin. If either side is absent, the coin (gospel) is a counterfeit one. There is a curse pronounced in Galatians 1 on those who preach "another gospel". So we must be careful to preach the full gospel - and the correct one - to others.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph.1:3). Our Christian life must begin with what God has done. We love Him because He first loved us. We serve Him, because He first served us. God knew us before the creation of the world (Eph.1:4). We can't understand that because we have past, present and future, whereas God's Name is "I AM" (Exod.3:14). God lives in an eternal present. So He knew each of us by name long before He created anything. He placed us in Christ even before the worlds were created.

Here is an illustration of what it means to be "in Christ". If you take a piece of paper and put it inside a book, and then burn the book, the paper will be burnt too. If you bury the book in the ground the paper will be buried too. If you send the book up in a rocket to the moon, the paper will go to the moon too. In the same way, we were placed in Christ ( from all eternity past, in God's mind). So when Christ was crucified in A.D. 29, we were crucified with Him. When He was buried, we were buried. When He was raised from the dead and ascended up to heaven, " God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus " too (Eph.2:6). This is an amazing truth. But we can experience the reality of it, only if we believe God's Word - not otherwise. " According to your faith it will be done for you" (Matt.9:29), is a law of God.

We must be established in what God has done for us in Christ. Only when that foundation is laid, can we build our house, with the exhortations found in Ephesians 4 to 6 about walking in a new way and resisting and overcoming Satan etc. Otherwise we will wallow in the mire of discouragement and self-condemnation frequently. So meditate much on Ephesians chapters 1 to 3 first.

Many Christians lay the foundation in one place and then build the house in another! So the house collapses. Every exhortation found in the last 3 chapters of Ephesians is based on God's love for us and His perfect acceptance of us (mentioned in the first 3 chapters). This is elementary. But we still tend to forget it. One day, we think that God will accept us more because we read the Bible for 45 minutes, and on another day, we think that He is frowning on us and won't listen to our prayers because we did not get even one minute to read the Scriptures. And if something goes wrong, we feel that it was because we didn't read the Bible that day! That is superstition, and believing that God's acceptance of us is based on our Bible-reading and not on what Christ has done for us. Bible-reading is no doubt very, very important. But that is not the foundation of our acceptance. That is part of the superstructure. It is very, very, very important for you to be established in this truth. Otherwise the gospel becomes man-centred - and you will be putting doors and windows into the foundation! Those who ignore or devalue these truths (found in Ephesians 1 to 3) invariably end up as Pharisees.

But of course, the whole purpose of laying a foundation is to build the house. So we don't stop with the foundation. We must keep building the superstructure.

"Grace" is God stretching out His Hand and offering us every heavenly blessing. " Faith " is our hand stretched out to take those blessings from God's hand. So we can get only as much as we claim in faith in Jesus' Name. God has put millions of blessings in our heavenly bank account and given us numerous blank checks signed with Jesus' Name. All we have to do now is fill in the amount and go to the bank and claim our inheritance.

Chapter 42
Chapter 42

The Divine Exchange

Let me now share something with you concerning: The divine exchange that took place on Calvary's cross in three areas - What Jesus became for us and what we can now become in Him as a result.

(1) Christ became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor.5:21). This is the glorious truth of justification by faith - a free gift of God for those who are humble enough to realize that they can never become righteous enough to meet God's standards. Jesus not only bore the punishment for our sins. He also actually became sin. We can't fully understand how awful an experience that was for Jesus, because we have unfortunately become as familiar with sin as a pig is with filth. To understand even faintly the revulsion that Jesus had for sin, think of jumping into a full septic tank and becoming assimilated permanently with the filth and dung in it. That gives us a faint picture of the depth of His love for us, that made Him become what He hated, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. God's righteousness is as high above the righteousness of the holiest man on earth as heaven is above the earth. The sinless angels cannot look at God's face (Isa.6:2, 3). But we can, because we are in Christ. When we see the awfulness of sin, we will begin to hate that which crucified Jesus. And when we see what we have become in Christ, we will rejoice in our perfect acceptance before God.

(2) Christ became poor for us, that we might become rich (2 Cor.8:9). The context of that verse shows that it is speaking of material poverty and material riches. Christ was once rich, the verse tells us. What does it mean "to be rich"? To be rich does not mean having lots of money and property, but rather having enough for our needs and some extra to help and bless others with. This is what God wants all of us to have. Being rich is described in Rev.3:17 as "having need of nothing". That is how God is rich. God does not have silver or gold or a bank account or even a wallet. But He has need of nothing. Jesus, when He was on earth was also rich in this way. He could feed 5000 men besides women and children. Only a rich man could do such a thing today. He had money to pay His taxes. The only difference was that whereas men take money out of their banks to pay their taxes, He took it from the mouth of a fish. He had enough money to give to the poor (John 13:29). He was not poor on earth, for He had "need of nothing". But He did become poor on the cross. The poorest beggar we have seen has at least a rag around His body. Jesus did not have even that when He was crucified. He was really poor when he died. Why did He become poor on the cross? That we might become rich - that we might have " need of nothing" at any time in our lives. God has not promised to give us all that we want. Even wise parents don't give their children all that they want. But He has promised to supply all our needs (Phil.4:19). If we seek God's kingdom first and His righteousness, we will always have everything we need for life on this earth (2 Pet.1:4).

(3) Christ became a curse for us that we might receive the blessing of Abraham (the promise of the Holy Spirit) (Gal.3:13, 14). The curse for not keeping the Law is described in Deut.28:15-68 - confusion, incurable sicknesses, plagues, constant failure, blindness, madness, being exploited by others, children lost to the enemy (Satan), stark poverty etc. None of this is for us, because Jesus became a curse for us. Note however, that the blessing we are promised in lieu is not the blessing of the Law (described in Deut.28:1-14), consisting of much money and many children, but rather the blessing of Abraham (described in Gen.12:2, 3), which is basically: The Lord blessing us and making us a blessing to every person that we come across. This is the blessing that comes through being filled with the Holy Spirit - a well of water springing up within us and blessing us (John 4:14), and rivers of water flowing through us and blessing others (John 7:37-39). The Lord's promise to even the worst sinner is that " as he has been a curse in times past, he can be a blessing in the times to come " (Memorize this wonderful promise in Zech.8:13).

I believe that it is God's will to make you a blessing to every person you come across wherever you are living. However, you must believe God for this to take place. Believe that no part of the curse can touch you. Satan has been defeated on the cross. So he has no right on any part of your life. Confess these truths with your mouth and be an overcomer all your days.

Every blessing of God can become ours only as we actually believe and claim it by faith. We must also confess with our mouths that God's Word is true. With the heart man believes. But with the mouth, we confess unto salvation and deliverance (Rom.10:10). That way (" by the word of our testimony"), we overcome Satan's accusations against us too (Rev.12:11).

Hope

"Hope" is a new covenant word, just like "grace", " gentleness", "poor in spirit" and "overcome" etc. Very few believers have thought much about hope. But it is a good word to study in a concordance.

Rom.5:2-4 tells us that we exult in hope of the glory of God. We rejoice in tribulations because if we are patient in those tribulations we will get proven character. That in turn gives us hope. That means that since we have seen from our past life how God has changed us, we have hope that the work will be completed by God in us in the days to come.

God wants to fill us with hope for the future. We are not to face the future with dismay and gloom, like the people around us. We look forward with tremendous hope, believing fully that He Who has begun a good work in us will definitely complete it and bring it to perfection in us (Phil.1:6). Hope is the certain antidote for discouragement and moodiness.

We must hold fast the confession of our hope (Heb.10:23). In other words, we must be bold to confess with our mouths, even if we are defeated right now, that God will give us victory and do what He has promised to do within us. We must rejoice in hope. It is normal for believers to thank God for what God has done for them. But we must also rejoice in the hope of what God will do for us.

"Whatever he does will prosper" is the promise in Psalm 1:3. This is the will of God for our lives, and we must claim it as our birthright in Christ.

Joy

Overflowing joy is one of the ways by which we can know that we are living in the presence of God - because "in His presence there is fullness of joy" (Psa.16:11). It is also thus that we know that the kingdom of God has indeed come into our hearts - for " the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit " (Rom.14:17). This joy can be ours only as we hate sin and love righteousness - for the anointing of the oil of gladness is given to those "who love righteousness and hate iniquity" (Heb.1:9). May the joy of the Lord be your strength at all times (Neh.8:10). Joy will make your battle against temptation much easier.

James says that we should rejoice even in the trials that we face because of two reasons (Jas.1:1-4): (1) we discover whether our faith is genuine or not (That is something like finding out whether the gold we have is genuine or not - so that we don't fool ourselves that we are rich when we are actually poor). (2) Our patience grows to perfection - and then we become perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It is amazing what results can come forth from our trials - if we rejoice in them. There is a lot of wasted suffering among believers. They don't get any wealth out of their suffering, because they complain and murmur instead of rejoicing.

Faith and Patience

In Hebrews 6:12 we read that it is only through faith and patience that we can inherit the promises. So faith alone is not enough. Hebrews 10:36 also says the same thing that you need patience after having done the will of God to inherit the promises of God. The NASB translates the word `patience' as `endurance' in the above verses - and that's what it really is.

We never have a complaint against anyone who causes us problems, because God makes all that others do to us to work for our good (Rom.8:28). Romans 8:28 is like a water-filter. Whatever dirty water people may pour into it, the water that comes out is perfectly clean and pure at the outlet. Whatever people may do to us, good or bad - whether they praise us or curse us, whether they help us or harm us - if we believe in Romans 8:28, what we get out of it will always be good! But we must believe. Faith is like putting on the switch for an electronic water-filter. It won't work without the current of faith passing through it.

So whatever trial comes our way - whether caused by the mistakes of others or by the deliberate wickedness of evil men, or by what appears to be accidental - we can rejoice in all of them, because God will make those also all work for our good - that is, to make us more Christlike (as Romans 8:29 says).

Faith is a total confidence in God's wisdom, power and love - that not only allows such circumstances in our lives, but actually arranges and engineers them for our very best.

Bible Study Tools

I have never studied Greek. But if you want to understand the Hebrew and Greek original words in the Bible, the best way is to use a Young's Concordance - because it gives all the English words that any Hebrew or Greek word is translated by (in the KJV). It is very handy tool for Bible study, and I have used it constantly since 1961, to study the Bible.

Let me give you one example of what I saw once in Young's concordance:

The Hebrew word `revayyah' (meaning `fullness') occurs only twice in the Old Testament:

(1) Psa. 23:5 - "runneth over" (KJV), "overflows" (NASB)

(2) Psa. 66:12 - "wealthy place" (KJV), "abundance" (NASB)

Putting the two passages together, we get the following spiritual truth: After God anoints our heads with oil (Psa.23:5), He brings us into the net (tight circumstances), lays an oppressive burden upon us (but not more than we can bear), makes men to ride over our heads, and takes us through fire and water (Psa.66:11, 12), and thus brings us to a place where our cups overflow (Psa.66:12 with Psa.23:5). So between the anointing and the overflowing, there are many trials that we have to go through. Only then do we come to an overflowing life.

Chapter 43
Chapter 43

What Have You Got That Is Not From God?

1 Corinthians 4:7 says that there is nothing we have that we did not get from God - whether in our body, our soul (mind and emotions), or our spirit. Our looks, our intelligence, our temperament, our circumstances, our education, the openings we have got in life (which others call "lucky breaks"), our desire for God, our spiritual development, the type of home-upbringing we got, etc., are all gifts of God to us. Since that is the case, Paul asks, how we can ever consider ourselves as superior to another. It is when we forget this fact, that thoughts of superiority begin to arise in our minds and we begin to despise others - perhaps someone who is not so intelligent, or not so cultured, or not so sharp, or not so spiritual etc.

Jesus criticised the Pharisees with the strongest words possible (" whitewashed graves", "generation of vipers" etc.) not because of any other sin but because they " considered themselves as righteous and looked down on others" (Lk.18:9). This is the sin that is Number One in God's list of sins - far above murder and adultery. When our minds are renewed to see sin as God sees it, we will re-arrange the order of sins to make it in line with His.

In the breaking of bread we receive the bread and receive the wine. We did not make either of them. They are both God's free gifts to us - symbolising the truth of the words in the hymn, "Rock of ages..."

"Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling."

It is when we recognize that we have received everything from God that our lives will be filled with deep thankfulness to God for every small mercy that we have received from His kind hand. And we will be thankful for the brothers and sisters whom God has given us in our fellowship - even if they are not perfect.

Spiritual or Religious

You must learn to distinguish between religiosity and spirituality. Religiosity consists of taking part in many Christian activities. But to be spiritual is to allow the Holy Spirit to change our attitude (concerning everything) to the same attitude that Jesus had (Phil.2:5, " Have the same attitude that Christ had..."). We must never deceive ourselves that we are growing spiritually if that change of attitude - towards women, money, people, circumstances, earthly honour etc., - is not taking place. Religious activity by itself will only make us whitewashed graves like the Pharisees. We must do everything to work out our own salvation from wrong attitudes, through the help of the Holy Spirit.

There is a vast difference between being religious and being spiritual. Under the old covenant, many who pursued righteousness became religious Pharisees. They were the greatest enemies of Jesus. Even today, it is possible to receive the truths of the new covenant in the spirit of the Law, and to become just religious. Then we will be the greatest enemies of God even today.

A person, who is more interested in an academic study of God's Word than in being filled with the Holy Spirit, and pleasing God, is in danger of ending up as a religious Pharisee, and not a spiritual Christian. In the Old Testament they were commanded to meditate on the Law of the Lord (Psa.1:2). But in the New Testament we are to meditate on the glory of the Lord Jesus that we see in the gospels (2 Cor.3:18). The letter kills. The spirit gives life.

The kingdom of God is righteousness along with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom.14:17). Religiosity may have a human righteousness, but it won't have peace and joy. There will be grumblings and murmurings, and fears and anxieties. True Christianity is a faith that brings fullness of peace - peacewith God (a clear conscience concerning all matters), peace with men (as far as it lies with us), and peace within (freedom from anxiety and tension). It also brings fullness of joy - a life of overflowing thanksgiving and praise under all circumstances. We sing:

"He had no tears for His own griefs

But sweat drops of blood for mine"

That was how Jesus' lived. He never once felt sorry for Himself. Even when bleeding and carrying the cross, He told others, " Don't weep for Me" (Lk.23:28). There was no self-pity in Him. He rejoiced constantly - even when badly treated by others, because He lived before His Father's face. That is how we must be too - with no tears for our own griefs.

Religiosity may have a lot of activity. But it is proud and it despises others. When we look down on others, or are proud of our righteousness, then we are religious not spiritual. (Humility is not spoken of much in the Old Testament, because it is a new-covenant virtue). We must ensure, that along with all our growth in Bible-knowledge, we are becoming spiritual and not just more religious.

Forgive everyone who has harmed you, set everything right with God and men, earnestly seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and determine by God's grace to walk the way of the dying of Jesus daily. Then you will become a spiritual man.

Faith and Confidence

Abraham " grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform " (Rom.4:20,21).

We also bring great glory to God, when we trust Him in the midst of impossible situations. We know that there is no problem that God cannot handle. He can solve every problem that Satan creates - anywhere. Even the President's heart is in His hand, and He can turn it in our favour (Prov.21:1).

So you must always trust God, no matter what happens, and confess your faith that God will crush Satan under your feet. Then you will triumph over Satan, no matter what he does. I have seen this happen again and again in my own life.

Since God wants to give you a spiritual education here on earth, you should anticipate that your problems will become more and more difficult as time goes on, just as in school your math problems became tougher and tougher, as you advanced to higher classes. But you would never have wanted to go back to a lower class, just to avoid the challenge of a tougher math problem! So also you must not be surprised when God allows you to face tougher situations as you grow in grace. Thus you will become a stronger, bolder and more confident Christian.

Be careful at all times that your conscience does not condemn you about anything. Only then can you come boldly before God (1 Jn.3:21, 22) and ask Him to solve your problems. To ask God for wisdom in trial (See James 1:1-7), is to ask Him for the solution to any problem you are facing. Since God has a solution to every problem, James says that you must count it as joy when you encounter various types of trials - because you can have a new experience of God thereby, as He solves the problem for you.

Seeing the Glory of God

When Isaiah saw the glory of God (Isa.6), he heard the angels singing that "the whole earth was full of the glory of God". That is an amazing statement, because most people cannot see the glory of God around them on this earth. They only see corruption and evil. But we need to have our eyes opened like Elisha's servant to see the angels of God all around us (2 Kings 6:17).

When we see that, we will also say, " If God be for us, who can be against us?" We will fear no situation, for there is no situation that God cannot handle.

We are seated in the heavenly places (Eph.2:6), even when we are on earth. God has made it such that we live on earth, in a heavenly capsule (space-suit) (like the astronauts who walked in their space-suits on the moon) with the atmosphere of heaven inside the capsule. Thus, even though we walk on this earth, we can be preserved from impurity, murmuring and fear - for none of these things are found in heaven. This is what the Holy Spirit has come to give us. This is why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit constantly.

Chapter 44
Chapter 44

The Blessing of Rejection

If I had still been in the Navy I would have retired today on completing 58 years (5 November 1997). But I thank God that I left the Navy 31 years ago, so that I could spend my life usefully for God in this world.

Last month (October 1997), the Lord told me specifically that I would be facing more opposition, persecution and rejection in the coming days. I don't know what that means or involves. But I think He was giving me an advance warning of what lies ahead for me in the coming years.

I know that my opposition will come from Christians who reject my message - just like Jesus faced from the Jews who rejected Him. But I rejoice in the Lord and press on, regardless.

(*Note: This prophecy was fulfilled from 1998 to 2007 - during which period, I faced great opposition from men, but great comfort and deliverance from the Lord as well. It was so good of God to warn me and prepare me for that, ahead of time ).

Within our own churches however, it is getting more and more glorious. God has raised up many wholehearted brothers and sisters in our midst. This is a great joy for me. And there are many open doors for ministry now.

Paul wrote (in 1 Cor.16:8, 9) " A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries ". These two things - open doors and opposition - seem to go together, ever since apostolic times.

God has made our own family a living demonstration to many around us that the happiest life anyone can live is one where we seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first. The way God has blessed our family has provoked some to jealousy - and that is the main reason for the antagonism of some people against us: They cannot bear to see a poor Christian worker's sons doing well spiritually, as well as otherwise, in the world.

Let me share with you something else that the Lord told me some years ago: He told me "I have made you a tester among My people to test them" (Jeremiah 6:27). I haven't shared this with many others, because it would sound like boasting. But I have seen the fulfilment of this through the years, as I have dealt with many people who have joined CFC. Believers who are not straightforward, who have come into a close association with me or with our churches have invariably got exposed, especially if there is any sin or Phariseeism in them that they continue to live in, and that they have not repented of. I have seen this happen numerous times. God reveals the secret sins of people to them in the hope that they will repent. But He does not force anyone to repent.

I hope all of you will be guided all your life by the example we have set for you as your parents - even if the Lord delays His coming, and we have gone home to our eternal reward with Him. I hope I can be alive until the Lord returns, because there is so much work to be done in His vineyard. But God knows what is best for each of us - and He has already numbered our days.

Give No Place to Satan

In Revelation 12:8, we learn two things about Satan:

(1) Satan and his demons are not strong enough to face God's angels - or us, God's sons;

(2) There is no place for Satan in heaven - or in our hearts.

The Holy Spirit warns us that Satan gets an advantage over people who retain either anger (Eph.4:26, 27) or an unforgiving attitude in their hearts towards anyone (2 Cor.2:10, 11). So be especially careful to avoid these two sins.

Satan cannot live in heaven because it is a place where they are praising God all the time. Satan will not be able to find an entry into our hearts either when we have that same spirit of praise to God - and we can have that spirit of praise at all times.

The Israelites could praise God only after they saw their enemies drowned in the Red Sea (See Psalm 106:8-12). But today, we walk by faith and can praise God even before we see our deliverance. He spreads a table for us and anoints us with joy in the presence of our enemies (Psa.23:5).

When Jonah was in the whale's belly, he struggled to get out during the first three days. Only after three days, did he begin to pray (See Jonah 1:17 and the word "Then" in 2:1). We too, when we are caught in a tight situation, don't usually think of praying first. Usually, we pray only after all our other efforts have failed. But there was still no deliverance for Jonah, until he started praising God.

When Jonah said "Salvation (deliverance) comes only from the Lord" (Jon.2:9), then the Lord told the fish to vomit Jonah out on to the land (Jon.2:10). Our deliverance from a tight situation also will come when we begin to praise the Lord. This is not a technique to be practised but an expression of faith in the almighty power of God. God says, "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honours Me and makes a way thereby for me to show him my deliverance" (Psa. 50:23 -Paraphrase). Jonah experienced that - and so can you.

What Does Jesus Marvel At?

There are only two times that we read that "Jesus marvelled" (KJV) - once when he saw faith, and the other when he saw unbelief. When the Roman centurion said that Jesus could speak a word and his servant (who was many miles away) would be healed, Jesus marvelled at his faith (Matt.8:10). Then when Jesus came to his own hometown, and they would not believe in Him, He marvelled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6). The centurion was so humble that he told the Lord that he did not consider himself worthy that Jesus should even enter his house.

A Canaanite woman who also once asked the Lord to heal her daughter (who was many miles away) was another person Jesus commended highly for her faith (Matt.15:28). When Jesus used the illustration of dogs not being given the children's bread, she promptly accepted her place in all humility as that of a dog at the foot of the table. She was not offended. In both these incidents, we see one thing in common: That there is a very close connection between humility and faith. The humbler we are, the less confidence we have in ourselves, and the less we think of our own talents and accomplishments, the more we can have faith. The prouder we are, the less we will have faith.

We must always realize that we are not worthy to stand before the Lord. It is God's tremendous grace that He allows us to do so. We must never take that for granted. So pursue humility with all your heart.

Faith That Doesn't Fail

God has promised to be an enemy to our enemies (Exodus 23:22). In the old covenant Israel's enemies were all human. Today we have only Satan (and his evil spirits) and the lusts in our flesh as our enemies. We do not wrestle with flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). If you decide never to fight with human beings, then alone will God fight for you. Remember that God is always on your side against Satan.

Satan was given permission to sift Peter, because God had such confidence in Peter and had a great ministry for him. But Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail, when he was being sifted. It is a great comfort to know that Jesus will be praying for you, whenever you are being sifted by Satan.

When a house is on fire, people will want to save the most valuable item inside that house. If there is a baby inside, the parents will want to save it and not the old newspapers. Even so, Jesus prayed that when Peter went through the fire, his faith would be saved. That was the most and only valuable thing. All the rest were like old newspapers - worthless.

Your faith must never fail when you are being sifted by Satan. If you have faith, then in the midst of the severest trial, you will confess: " My heavenly Father loves me intensely and He rules on earth and in heaven. Jesus Christ has defeated Satan on the cross. Satan is a liar and has no claim on my life. God is making everything work together for my good ". That is the confession of one whose faith has not failed. Jesus told Peter that after he was sifted, he would be converted and could then strengthen his brothers (Lk.22:31, 32). We cannot strengthen others if our faith fails when we are tested.

Jesus could do much with Peter because he did not get offended, even when he was called "Satan" (Matt.16:23). But Jesus never prayed for Judas because he was offended by a small correction that Jesus gave him in Bethany (Read Jn.12:4-8 coupled with Matt.26:8-15).

You must not be offended when the Lord corrects you. God has a great purpose to fulfil through each of you. The greater the purpose, the more God will allow you to be sifted by Satan. But you will come out as more than conquerors in every trial.

Things Lawful But Not Edifying

Paul told the Hebrew Christians that there was much that he wanted to share with them concerning Christ coming in the flesh, but which he could not do, because they were dull of hearing and immature.(Heb.5:7-14).

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came He would take the things concerning Him and show them to us (Jn.16:14). He shows us the glory of God in the life of Christ. Then we realize what it means to live a Divine life - a life like the one that Jesus lived on earth. Then we won't only avoid evil, but also avoid those things that Jesus Himself would avoid.

Paul said twice in 1 Cor.6:12 and 10:23 that even though all things are lawful, all things were not profitable or edifying. We can live the Christian life at two levels - one is the level of avoiding all unlawful things and doing only the lawful things. The second level is higher where we avoid even some lawful things because they are unprofitable, unedifying and might master us. You must apply that test to everything that you do, including your legitimate activities. Ask yourself whether you can do them in fellowship with Jesus. Only thus will you become spiritual. Otherwise you will be just a good human being, but without Divine life. There are many Christians like that. Here then are the three levels at which you can live:

SPIRITUAL: Doing only profitable and edifying things
SOULISH : Doing everything that is lawful
CARNAL : Doing even unlawful things

May the Lord give you grace to exercise your senses through the temptations that you encounter every day, to discern between what the Divine reaction to that situation or temptation should be, and what is only human and soulish (Heb.5:14).

Living Entirely for the Lord

God is greatly encouraging us everywhere we go in India these days. The need is great in this land and I for one, am extremely thankful that God has given me life until now so that I could do something for Him, before I meet Him face to face.

God has a plan for each of your lives. Seek Him for that plan each day, and don't allow anything to rob you of the privilege and honour of living for Him. Life is too short to express our gratitude to Jesus for all that He did for us on Calvary. I pray that all of you, my sons, will spend your lives in a worthwhile way, living 100% for the Lord, until He comes again.

We pray for you daily that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that you will walk the way of discipleship, and that the Lord will preserve you to live only for Him, and also help you with your academic studies. May the Lord give you grace to follow Him more closely this year than you have ever done thus far in your life. Life is short, and was not given for trifling. May the seriousness of being called to be a child of God and His witness on earth, grip your heart greatly this coming new year. May you have a year over which you will be able to look back with satisfaction when you come to the end of it. Time slips by so quickly and soon we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of our lives to Him, Who created us for His glory. May you have great rejoicing in that day over how you lived.

No time for trifling in this life of mine

Not this the path our blessed Master trod;

But strenuous toil - each hour and power employed

Always and all for God.

Time swiftly flies - eternity is near,

And soon my dust may lie beneath the sod.

How dare I waste my life, or cease to be

Always and all for God. (A.B.Simpson)

You are living there in a country where people are so unashamedly immoral and corrupt, and in the midst of believers who are generally speaking not radical or wholehearted in turning away from this worldliness in the society around them. It is easy in such a situation to sink to the level of the Christians around you, and to do what they do. This is the greatest danger that you are facing right now. So be watchful for the enemy's wiles and let Jesus alone be your Example. May your eyes be fixed on Jesus alone. What you cannot do in fellowship with Jesus, you should never do, even if every other Christian around you is doing it. Make that the rule for your life.

Live in the presence of Jesus always, looking up to Him. This will lead to a life of constant self-judgment. And that is the way of all spiritual progress. This is not a message that you will hear in any church that you go to, over there. So you have to be a preacher to yourself. You must not be introspective - for that will lead to condemnation and discouragement. But look unto Jesus - and as you look at Him, you will see your own corruption, just like Isaiah and Job and John (on Patmos) saw. Then you can judge yourself.

I never look inside myself. I only look at Jesus constantly - at His perfect purity (as a man, tempted like me), His love and His humility. That keeps me aware of my need all the time.

Chapter 45
Chapter 45

Seeking God's Kingdom Alone

God has a plan for your life and we want Him to fulfil that 100%. As parents we have sought to honour God, and not sought to live for ourselves. So we believe that our children will reap what we have sown, since this is a law of God that God honours those who honour Him - and that the children of the righteous are blessed (See Prov.20:7). So God will provide all of you boys with the right openings when it comes to employment and also in marriage. We pray for you regularly - and those prayers will not fall to the ground. However we don't expect answers to our prayers because of any merit of our own, but only because we pray in Jesus' Name - in His merit alone.

We want the Lord's perfect plan for your life to be fulfilled. That depends on just one thing: Whether you seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first in your life or not. It does not depend on any other factor. That is what I have proved in the last 35 years ( *Note: And now for 57 years). So make sure you get an `A' in that course from God consistently, and all will be well.

The whole world lives by the principle of " seeking their own interests" (Phil.2:21) in all things. Everyone born of the race of Adam, in every nation, in every generation has lived by that principle. Jesus came into such a world and lived a life where He never once sought His own interests, but only the interests of God His Father at all times. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow Him in this radical way - where everything that you do or say is governed by the glory of God and the interests of God's kingdom.

In Revelation 3:21, Jesus tells us to overcome , even as He also overcame. This teaches us clearly that He had something to fight and overcome. In times when we are tempted and tested, we must allow the Holy Spirit to show us how Jesus overcame and thus be strengthened to overcome even as He also overcame.

God's Love Overrules Our Mistakes

We are really proud of all of you - especially of your desire to follow the Lord, your total honesty and your helpfulness and hardworking nature. Those are very important qualities.

I believe in God and in the power of prayer that has kept all of you in line with God's will thus far. Even if you make a mistake in a decision, I pray that God will overrule it and still work out His perfect will for you in the future. Life is short and I only pray that you won't make any serious mistakes in your life. May you put God and His righteousness first in all that you do. Then all will be well. I couldn't wish anything better for you.

You really require the wisdom of God to be shrewd as a serpent in this world and harmless as a dove, while pursuing an earthly profession and yet keeping an eternal perspective all the time. So ask God for wisdom constantly. He is interested in your academic studies as well as your earthly work well - for He is the One Who has taught us to pray for our daily bread, and we have to get a job to earn our daily bread. All of us owe our very lives to Him, because He has saved us all from many accidents and an early death, besides having saved us from eternal death.

Praise the Lord for His goodness to you in enabling you to be free from debt throughout your college life. There are so many students who are weighed down with debt, by the time they finish their undergraduate college studies.

Many things can happen to us contrary to our expectations and to what we think is best for us. We may not always understand why God allows such things to happen. But we will know the reasons for them in eternity - and when we see the reasons clearly, we will agree with the Lord and say, "Lord, You did all things well". God never makes a mistake. I am certain of that. The children of the godly have an inheritance. So you will all be blessed in the long run - certainly. " Eye has not seen nor ear heard neither has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him " (1 Cor.2:9).

All that I write, I do only because I long that you might be even more effective for the Lord.

Get rid of all artificiality and let your Christianity always be natural - from your heart. May the Lord preserve you and keep you - spiritually and physically.

Obedience to Parents

God gave only one commandment to Adam and he disobeyed that (Gen.2, 3). Jesus gave only one commandment to Christians - to love one another (Jn.13:34, 35) - and most of them disobey that. In the same way God gave only one commandment to children - to honour their parents (Eph.6:1-3) - and most of them disobey that.

It is the duty of parents to teach their children to honour them. Children must speak respectfully to their parents at all times, throughout their lives. And when children are living at home, they must also obey their parents in all matters. This is the example that Jesus has set for us. He obeyed Mary up to the age of 30 (while at home) and after that made clear to her at Cana that He was no longer obligated to listen to her, but only to His Father directly thereafter. But He still cared for her when hanging on the cross, in His last moments. It will go well with all children who obey and follow Jesus' example.

As your parents we have had to represent God to you. And this is where we have seen our desperate need for God's grace and help.

Some Helpful Quotes

Here are some good quotes that I read recently:

"In the beginning it took God to make a man. It still does."

Concerning suffering: " If I'm told that I'm in for a hard journey, then every hard jolt along the way only reminds me that I'm on the right road ."

"The good news sounds good only when delivered with good manners."

" Lot chose land (Sodom) and lost everything. Abraham chose God and got everything forever ."

True Marks of Faith

In Galatians 5:6 we are told that " in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith that works through love ". This teaches us that all our understanding of a doctrine (whether that doctrine be `circumcision', `speaking in tongues' or `victory over sin' or whatever) is worthless, if it does not produce in usa faith that works through love in our actions. One meaning of " faith" is "a helpless dependence on God". It is only when we have come to an end of ourselves that we can depend on God and have faith. That faith should then manifest itself in love for others.

Another mark of faith in God is that we believe that what He has commanded is always the best for us, as opposed to what our own reason tells us. Seeking His kingdom first, keeping our hearts pure, humbling ourselves at all times, forgiving all who harm us, overcoming evil with good - all are the very best for us. We are called to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. The mighty hand of God refers to the people and circumstances that God in His sovereignty arranges for us to be pushed down by.

We can then wonder whether people will take advantage of us if we humble ourselves and don't assert ourselves. But we don't need to have any such fears, for " God is always thinking about us and watching everything that concerns us " (1 Pet.5:6,7 - Living). He will never allow us to be tried beyond our ability. So we don't have to fear that people might take advantage of us, if we love those who are ungrateful and evil towards us (as God commands us to).

God has also taught me not to be fussy about people forgetting to do something they should have done, but to leave room for the sovereignty of God even there! God has ways of using even such undisciplined actions for His highest purposes - even as He used the forgetfulness of Pharaoh's cupbearer to bring Joseph to the throne at the right time (Gen.40:23; 41:1). It is only deliberate sin that God hates. Everything else He overlooks - and even uses for His glory.

Death to Self and Building Christ's Body

If we die with Jesus we will certainly live with Him. If we have faith in God, we will consent to this "dying of Jesus" - dying to our self-will (that seeks our own pleasure, our honour, our prestige etc.) in the situations that God arranges for us, fully believing that the Divine life that God will give us in exchange will be far superior to the rotten Adamic life that we consign to death.

The resurrection life of Jesus is certainly far superior to the life that we have all inherited from our parents. But we must be willing to give up that Adamic life to death, before God will give us the life of Jesus (2 Tim.2:11; 2 Cor.4:10). To use an illustration, it is like exchanging the few coins in our beggar's tin-can for a million rupees offered by God. Only a fool will reject such an exchange. But the world is full of such fools. So they end their lives still clinging to their few coins (the rotten Adamic life), when they could have used the temptations they faced on earth to become spiritually wealthy (with the Divine nature), before they ended their earthly lives. No wonder the Bible calls our lusts deceitful (Eph.4:22), because they fool us that they are going to make us happy!

We cannot build the Body of Christ unless we are gripped by the way of the cross (of death to self) as the way that we are to walk till the very end of our lives. This is not an additional option, but central to building the Body of Christ.

God's Goal for Us - To Be Christlike

God's goal is to make us like Jesus. Here are three important verses in that connection:

(a) Romans 8:28, 29 : Our Father makes all things work together outwardly to enable us to reach this goal.

(b) 2 Corinthians 3:18 : The Holy Spirit fills us inwardly to lead us towards this goal.

(c) 1 John 3:2,3 : All who have the hope of Christ's coming will work towards this goal.

Two marks of God's love for us is that He rebukes us and chastens us when we go wrong, even if it be in just a small matter (Heb.12:5-8; Rev.3:19). That proves that He is treating us as His sons. And God works steadfastly towards the goal of making us like Jesus, when we are serious about the same goal ourselves.

God has a plan for our lives that can be fulfilled only if we seek Him with all our hearts - not otherwise (Read Jeremiah 29:11-13 in this connection). God is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently (Heb.11:6 - KJV). So you should seek him diligently from now itself - in your youth.

Chapter 46
Chapter 46

Death is the Gateway to the Life of God

In 1 Corinthians 11, we are told to remember the Lord's death when we break bread. Jesus came and showed us by His life and by His teaching that "death is the gateway to the life of God" (See 2 Cor.4:10). So it is good for us to meditate on every aspect of the death of Christ and understand more clearly what it means to share in that dying (eat the broken bread) and to be crucified with Christ.

One aspect of the death of Christ is that He took the blame on the cross for what He never did (" I am punished for what I never did and I have to restore what I never stole " - Psa.68:4 - Living). This was the exact opposite of what Adam did - who refused to take the blame for what he did do. He blamed his wife (Gen.3:12). These are two entirely different ways in which the children of Adam and the children of God walk.

Adam's children justify themselves like their father. " You are those who justify yourselves", Jesus told the Pharisees (Lk.16:15). Adam could not see his own need or his own sin. He could only see the sin of another. When anyone blames others and sees nothing wrong in himself, he is actually in fellowship with Satan the Accuser.

The dying thief was saved, not just because he said, " Lord, remember me." It was because he took the blame for his own sins before saying those words.

God doesn't need our help to judge others. He is quite capable of doing that all by Himself! He wants us to judge only ourselves. Such believers will be the happiest people in the world.

The Lord told the nation of Judah through Jeremiah, that they had not learnt any lessons for themselves from the failure of the northern kingdom of Israel (Jer.3:6-8). And then He said that Israel was better than Judah. Many Christian groups that have come out of dead denominations have not learnt a lesson from what God did to those dead denominations. Therefore they have ended up as more Pharisaical and dead than those denominations.

God calls us to do only one thing: " Acknowledge your own iniquity" (Jer.3:13).

True Happiness

All people in the world are in the pursuit of happiness. But they are all pursuing it in the wrong way. They think that happiness can be found in illicit sexual pleasure, or in plenty of money, or in fame and honour and position and power etc. There is no doubt, a certain amount of sensual excitement in all of these. But the happiness doesn't last.

God also wants us to be happy. But He says, " Happy are those whose hearts are pure" (Matt.5:8 - Living). It is only by being holy that we can be really happy. As a Christian, you are called to demonstrate to the world around you that you are supremely happy, because you are holy. And you must show others that you don't need any of the sinful things that God has forbidden, to make you happy.

We don't find our happiness even through the pursuit of legitimate things - like marriage or a job. We can have these, but we can't become happy through them. We can be happy only in the Lord. Only then can we be effective witnesses for the truth of the gospel.

When our hearts are impure, we cannot be really happy. Secret sins and wrong attitudes towards others have a way of making us long-faced, like Cain, whom God asked, "Why is your face fallen?" (Gen.4:6). God warned Cain about the danger that was facing him. Sin was crouching at the door of his heart waiting to swallow him up and God told him to master it. Sin is very, very close to us at all times. Blessed are those who realize this at all times - for they will be alert and vigilant in the hour of temptation. The one who realizes the weakness of his flesh and constantly cries out to God for help will not fall.

God's Blessing Leads to Fellowship

The cross of Calvary not only tells us how much God loves the sinner, but also how much He hates sin. We must see both these truths at Calvary's cross - and not just the first.

Adam at least replied to God when God confronted him. But Cain just walked away from God's presence without even bothering to reply to God, and went out and killed his brother immediately! When God confronted him again, he had the audacity to tell God a lie that he did not know where his brother was. Then God cursed Cain.

Adam was not cursed, but Cain was. In Genesis 3, we read that God cursed the ground, but not Adam. Cain was the first man to be cursed by God, because he despised God's warnings. The curse was that Cain would be a vagrant and a wanderer and a tramp on the earth. This is the condition of many who call themselves Christians too - they have no fellowship with anyone or in any church. They are wanderers and tramps, going from one church to another as visitors, without becoming a part of any fellowship. When God blesses us we get fellowship. " God places the lonely ones in a family" (Psa.68:6). Otherwise, we become wanderers.

Salvation from the World System

Jesus came to save us not only from sin but also from this world system. Satan is the ruler of this world. He is behind the fashions, the entertainment, the educational system and many, many other apparently neutral things that we see in this world. For example, if we spend all our spare time listening to good Christian music, that could be Satan's way of preventing us from being still enough at times, to listen to the voice of God. The good then becomes the enemy of the best!

The Lord does not take us out of this world. He prayed to the Father in John 17:15 not to take His disciples out of the world, but to keep them from evil. It is only in the world that we can be trained to be holy. A ship is tested for its water-tightness in the midst of the sea, and not in a dry-dock!

Jesus said that in the days of Noah and Lot, people were taken up with eating, drinking, buying, selling, building, planting, marrying and giving in marriage (Lk.17:26-28) - all legitimate activities. We can be so taken up with these "cares of the world" that we have no time for God. That is the danger in the last days. And we are living in those days now. When we prosper financially, and start living lavishly, we can easily drift away from God. The Bible says, " Godliness with frugality is a means of real spiritual profit" (1 Tim.6:6 - paraphrase).

The day of salvation is now. We need to repent of our preoccupation with things other than God Himself.

One Eyed Denomination

When Jesus asked the two blind men whether they had faith that He could heal them, if one of them had replied that he had faith only for one eye to be opened, that is all that he would have got. The principle " According to your faith" applies to all people (Matt.9:29). He could then have started the "one-eye denomination" and called those who claimed to have both eyes open as heretics! Here is what I mean:

Chapter 47
Chapter 47

No Profit without Risk

In the parable of the three men who were given talents (Matt.25:14-30), we see how important it is to invest our lives in a wise way that will yield maximum returns for eternity.

In fixed deposits in banks, you can make 100% profit only in about 11 years (at 7% interest). The man with the one talent did not even get his annual interest. But the men who had five and two talents made 100% profit in a very short period of time. Therefore they must have taken some risks. One definition of "profit" is "the reward for taking a risk". Those who play it safe usually get very little returns.

Peter and Matthew took a risk, humanly speaking, when they threw away their jobs in order to serve the Lord. To do that, without their Lord calling them to do so, would have been foolish. Many foolish Christians have done that - being stirred just by the call of men or by the call of sacrifice. It is the Lord alone Who can call. But when the Lord called these men, they obeyed at once. And their lives yielded tremendous returns.

The principle is that we must obey at once as soon as God calls us to do something - whatever the cost. You must never jump off the pinnacle of the temple to test God or to show off your faith. But you must be quick to jump out of the boat if the Lord calls you to walk on the water.

To stand up for the truth and keep your conscience clean, in an office, even if that costs you your job is taking a risk. But the returns are hundredfold according to the Lord's promise (10,000%). To be rejected by friends, because you won't compromise or laugh at their dirty jokes or lower God's standards may make you unpopular. But such risks give you large returns.

To love others also involves risks. They may prove ungrateful, or even turn against you. That is the risk that Jesus took when He came to earth. You may have shown love to someone who proved ungrateful. Then you can decide to stop showing love to others thereafter. That is foolish. Never clam up, just because you had some bad experiences with ungrateful or evil people. God specialises in loving and being good to such people. As long as we are on earth, let us continue to take the risks involved in obeying God's Word - loving those who hate us, and overcoming evil with good - until the very end. Then we will have the joy of hearing the Lord say to us one day, " Well done, good and faithful servant."

Those who hold on in a miserly way to what God gives them will lose even what they have. Those who shower goodness on others will become richer in the process - because "God waters those who water others" (See Prov.11:24, 25). The way of giving goodness and love is the way of blessedness (Acts 20:35). When a word of God blesses us, if we keep it to ourselves, we become poorer. But if we share it with others, we become richer, and that word will stay in our memory forever. Use your life, your gifts and your possessions to bless others. This is what the man with the one talent never learnt.

I have always said that the work in our CFC churches in India is God's work and not mine. I only make myself available for Him to send me here or there and to speak what He tells me to. It is His job to sort out the problems and to deal with the difficult people. It is so much easier when we are only servants (only having to do what we are commanded), and not the proprietor (having to worry about what to do)! " God is the Blessed Controller of all things" (1 Tim.6:15 - J. B. Phillips translation).

Deception - One Mark of the End Times

The first thing that Jesus warned His disciples about, in relation to His second coming was the possibility of their being deceived if they were not careful (Matt.24:4). There are many counterfeits in Christendom today, and we must not swallow everything that takes the name of Jesus or that claims to be the working of the Holy Spirit. Test everything by God's Word. Otherwise you will be deceived. There will also be plenty of hatred and wars - in homes and between nations. That is why you must never allow hatred to dwell in your heart - for that would be like having a little bit of hell inside your heart.

If we walk in the light, we will get more and more light on the sins that dwell within our flesh, and then we can seek God for grace to overcome them. The one clear, unmistakable mark that we are walking in God's light is that we discover more and more of the unconscious sin within us . This is the plain teaching of 1 John 1:7: " If we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all the sin (that we discover within us as we walk in God's increasing light)". Then we are in fellowship with God - not otherwise.

The last days will be like the days of Noah. There will be an abundance of perverse sexual sin and of violence in the world. The world is moving in that direction today. But there will also be people like Noah and families like Noah's in the last days. Praise God. We should therefore seek to be like Noah - bold, uncompromising, righteous, and standing erect and unbent for our convictions, whatever the cost. We may be considered odd and even insane. But it will be worth it all when we see Jesus one day.

The essence of Babylonian Christianity is found in the words of the people when they built the tower of Babel, " Let us make a name for ourselves" (Gen.11:4). God shares His power, His nature and His gifts with us - but never his glory (See Isa.42:8). To touch the glory that belongs to God - to take credit for what we are by nature (beauty, intelligence, talents, wealth etc.,) or by grace (our spirituality, knowing God's truth, gifts) - is a very great sin. We must repent of this constantly - for we touch the glory of God unknowingly, so often.

The Church

One of the wonderful blessings that God has provided for us in His true church ("Zion" - Jer.3:14) is the blessing of " shepherds after His own heart" (Jer.3:15). We should pray that God will raise up more such shepherds in our land, as Jesus commanded us to pray (Matt.9:36-38). You can also be such shepherds, if you seek to help those younger than you. You must make friends with those younger than you wherever you go and use that friendship to draw them to the Lord in a natural way. Thus you can be a shepherd after God's own heart.

The church must be a miniature representation on earth right now of what the kingdom (government) of God will be like one day, when the world is ruled by the Lord Jesus, and of what heaven is like right now. That's why we constantly speak in the church of death to all that we have inherited from Adam, since that is the only way to cleanse out the old Adamic life, so that there might be room for the life of the Spirit in us.

In Revelation 3:20, we read that Jesus knocks at the door waiting for entrance to dine with us. He longs to eat and drink with us. In the breaking of bread, we testify of our need of Him and of His body (the church) at all times. It is a confession of our need, and not of our worthiness.

There are three antidotes for Phariseeism:
1. Concentrate more on your inner life than your outward life.
2. Never despise or look down on any human being at any time.
3. Stay devoted to Jesus.

If you do these constantly, you will never be a Pharisee.

Chapter 48
Chapter 48

Offering Our Bodies - A Spiritual Act of Worship

Paul told Timothy, " Guard through the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim.1:14). God has given us our bodies as a sacred treasure that we must preserve for Him during our earthly journey. We are to present these to Him every day so that they can be cleansed of all sin and preserved in holiness, until one day we complete life's journey. To use an illustration: It is like a company having given us five million rupees to carry safely from one place to another. But we have wasted some of it and lost the rest of it along the way. Now we repent and come back to the Lord in failure. What does He do? He does not reject us. Instead He forgives us and gives us another five million rupees and tells us to carry that safely till the end of our lives. How good God is.

Our testimony as Christians must be far above the standard of the world. We must not do anything that has even the appearance of evil. It is better when in doubt to err on the side of caution and discretion rather than on the opposite side.

Longing after God

Live before God's face in the secret place and let there be a constant cry in your heart after Him. Christianity becomes a dry, empty religion when this longing after God is gone. So preserve that longing after God at any cost. That is the most important part of your faith. We must constantly long after God like the thirsty deer pants for water.

God's education for us includes many things that the world calls " disappointments". But these are "His-appointments" for something better for us. If we don't face such disappointments, we will never be able to counsel others. Life's education includes failing as well, for failure is necessary if we are to help others in a world in which 99.9% of people are failures. Two purposes of failure are (1) to humble us (break us) and (2) to make us compassionate towards others.

Your spiritual battles are also part of your education. If you work so hard for temporal earthly degrees, how much harder you must be willing to battle for an eternal, heavenly one. The time is short and the days are evil. We must keep the eternal perspective in mind, in all our earthly pursuits. Live in a constant judgment of yourself and in a pure inner walk with the Lord at all times.

May the Lord preserve you in the centre of His will at all times - concerning your further education - and also in other matters like marriage etc., that are far more important. One fundamental principle to be borne in mind at all times is that you must never be in haste when it comes to major decisions in life .

Mercy and Legalism

I was speaking in our church-meeting yesterday about the prostitute who brought an expensive vial of perfume to pour on Jesus' feet (Lk.7;37,38). She had obviously bought that perfume with her earnings as a prostitute. Jesus knew that the Law had forbidden the earnings of a prostitute to be offered to God (Deut.23:18). Yet He accepted her gift gladly, because He was not a legalist. He saw her heart.

It is your heart that God sees more than your actions. It is in such situations that the Pharisees (both in the 1st and 20th centuries) are exposed and made manifest by the way they criticise sincere believers. The Pharisees would never have accepted such a gift from a prostitute. The Lord's heart was obviously much wider than theirs! Like we sing in that hymn of Frederick Faber's:

There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea;

There's a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind;

And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own;

And we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.

We must never forget that.

Freedom from the Pursuit of Money and Sex

There are two sides to "proclaiming the Lord's death" - one is that Christ died for us, and the other that we died with Christ. It is only as we accept both facts and seek to live each day in the reality of them that we can meaningfully take part in "the bread and the cup". Christ died because of our sins. So we must take every sin seriously. If we read the sermon on the mount carefully, we will see that Jesus taught that those who retained anger against others and those who lusted after women were both in danger of hellfire. This latter sin was so serious, that Jesus said that it would be better to become blind. Of course there is forgiveness of sins in Christ's blood if we repent and confess these sins. But that should not prevent us from realising the seriousness of these sins. We can never have victory over these sins until we realize that these sins are serious enough to take us to hell. And these are the sins for which our Saviour suffered and died on the cross. Only when we take such sins seriously can we say that we have begun to take God's Word seriously.

I pray that you will take the sin of lusting after women seriously, and seek for grace from God to overcome it permanently. If you kill this Goliath, you will find that the other Philistines run away (as in 1 Samuel 17:51).

I also pray that you will never make money your god - for that can destroy you finally. Almost everyone in the world is in the mad pursuit of money and sex and honour nowadays. If you are to be a light for the Lord, you have to be free from this pursuit yourself. Be careful in all your thoughts about the future that you seek the kingdom of God first. Your first calling is to be a witness for Christ - not to be rich or great in this world. Leave it to God to determine how much of this world's wealth and honour to entrust you with. He decides that - and it is different for each of His children. Some of God's children are rich and honoured while others are poor and dishonoured.

Live with eternity's perspective always.

The Father always heard Jesus' prayers, because Jesus was always careful never to allow sin to enter His heart.

The progress of temptation to sin is like this:
1. Temptation begins as a thought flashed into the mind. (From there it seeks to descend into the heart).
2. It descends into the heart. (Then it becomes sin). (From here sin seeks to express itself through the body).
3. Sin expresses itself through the tongue, eyes, hands etc. (This is when others can see it).

Jesus was tempted. But He always prevented Step 2. So He never sinned.

We must pray that God will pour out on us " the Spirit of grace and supplication so that we look at Jesus Whom we have hurt - and mourn ". We mourn for having hurt Him in the past, by allowing temptation to progress to Step 2 and become sin (Zech.12:10). May the Lord give you the comfort that He gives to all who mourn for their sins.

Calvinism and Arminianism

Here are some notes on Calvinism and Arminianism (for your information).

The Calvinists (followers of John Calvin, a Swiss Christian - 1509-1564) emphasise the sovereign choice of God in salvation. Their five points are summed up by the acronym T-U-L-I-P:

(1) Total depravity: They say that man cannot repent, without God's help - and so we should not ask anyone to repent!! What would Peter and Paul have thought of that??

(2) Unconditional election: They say that God sovereignly chooses His children, without any condition being fulfilled on man's part. If so, then no-one can be blamed for going to hell!!

(3) Limited atonement: They say that Christ died ONLY for the `elect', and not for all men. But 1 John 2:2 says clearly that Jesus died " for the whole world".

(4) Irresistible grace: They say that those who are chosen by God WILL NOT be able to resist God's call and His grace, but WILL definitely be saved. This would make man into a robot and contradicts everything taught about freedom of choice in the New Testament.

(5) Perseverance of the saints: They say that once a person is saved, he can never be lost. But Hebrews 3:14 says we have to hold fast until the end to become a partaker of Christ. And in Revelation 3:5, Jesus warns believers that their names will be erased from the book of life if they do not overcome.

Those who believe the above teachings to an extreme are called hyper-Calvinists. As you can see, I don't agree with any of these points, because they are all contrary to the word of God.

The Arminians (followers of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch Christian - 1560-1609) emphasise the freewill of man - and refute all the above 5 points.

The Bible does teach the sovereignty of God - but not to the extreme that the hyper-Calvinists teach it. Truth when carried to such a ridiculous extreme becomes error. Does God choose us or do we choose God? The answer is: Both! God chose us according to His foreknowledge (1 Pet.1:1,2). What that means is: God knew from eternity past all who would choose Him - and He chose them.

Charles Simeon (a godly Christian in England in the 18th century) said concerning this matter: " The truth does not lie in one extreme nor in the other. Much less does it lie in the middle! The truth lies in both extremes held together simultaneously. " That is a beautiful way of expressing it.

So I believe in the sovereignty of God as well as in the free will that God has given all men. So, when I preach, I challenge people to surrender their free will to God. But when I pray, I believe that God in His absolute sovereignty can do everything - and that nothing is impossible for Him. God has indeed chosen us before the worlds were created. That is a fact that humbles us. We also believe what Jesus said that only " he who endures until the end will be saved" (Matt.24:13). We don't have to unravel the mysteries of His sovereign choice of us and our freedom of choice. We just believe it.

John Wesley was primarily an Arminian, whereas his contemporary George Whitefield was primarily a Calvinist. Even though they never worked together, they still respected each other. They were both blessed by God and brought revival to 18th-century England, each of them preaching to thousands of people at open-air meetings. When George Whitefield died, John Wesley spoke at his funeral (as per Whitefield's specific request before his death). After the funeral, one of Wesley's followers asked him whether he expected to meet Whitefield in heaven. Wesley said " No " - and the reason he gave was, " George Whitefield was so bright a star in the firmament of God's glory, and will stand so near the throne, that one like me, who am less than the least, will never catch a glimpse of him." That is Christian humility . John Wesley knew that God was not going to examine our doctrines at His judgment-seat, but our hearts and the way we lived.

Chapter 49
Chapter 49

Growing in Discernment

I am glad to see that the Lord is giving you discernment on what is genuine and what is superficial in the so-called "revivals" that many Christians speak about. You must always be discerning as to what is psychological and what is spiritual in Christian preaching and in Christian meetings. You must not blindly follow what appears to be good. We are commanded to " examine everything carefully and hold fast to what is good" (that is, to what comes from God Himself" (1 Thess.5:21).

We had a brothers' meeting last Monday at which we were speaking about the great need to grow in discernment. Paul prayed for the Philippians that their "love would grow in discernment" (Phil.1:9). Those who boast nowadays about "having seen angels in visions", should remember that "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor.11:14)!! So what they actually saw may have been demons pretending to be angels - which is nothing to boast about!! We must be alert, lest we be deceived. We can fall into sin easily, if we don't keep our spiritual senses alert at all times.

Many girls are flirtatious, and you must be able to discern such ones quickly, otherwise you will fall into their traps. You must discern who is spiritual and who is not. If you spend a lot of time fellowshipping with unspiritual Christians, you will find that your spiritual life deteriorates gradually. This is something that you have to be especially careful about, since you don't receive the powerful exhortations there, that you used to receive regularly when you were here i our church in Bangalore. So you must now learn to receive those exhortations directly from the Holy Spirit from the Bible. I have found that those who learn to live by the inner witness of the Spirit save themselves from many calamities that those who live by their reason fall into. May the Lord preserve you until the end of your days, and make you useful servants of His in His kingdom.

Valuing Your Birthright

Be very careful when you find yourself with not much work to do or when you are bored. Those are the times when you will find sexual temptation to be strong. Then you must get away and seek fellowship with other believers or even go for a walk.

Don't ever travel alone with any girl in a car, unless absolutely essential and unavoidable, and even then only on very short trips. A few precautions like this can preserve you from lifelong regrets.

Jesus was tempted by Satan to go to the edge of the temple-top and jump off, and to believe that the angels would protect Him. But Jesus refused to test God foolishly like that (Matt.4:7). You also must not test God by foolishly going near the edge of any "female-cliff". Don't imagine that the angels of God will keep you from falling if you move around foolishly with a girl! Many who fall from the edges of these "female-cliffs" fall accidentally - and not deliberately. So the best thing to do is to stay far away from the edges of such female-cliffs. Consider what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of what I mean.

All young people should meditate much on the example of Esau. Think of the birthright he lost - the privilege of being the ancestor of the Messiah. And what did he gain in its place? A bowl of porridge! No wonder he wept later, when he saw the bottom line of the "balance sheet" of his life clearly - what he had gained and what he had lost. But it was too late. These things are written for our instruction. Put spiritual values first in all matters. The world and all its honours and its pleasures and its wealth and intelligence will pass away. The one who does the will of God will remain forever (1 John 2:17).

There are many bowls of porridge that Satan offers young people these days. Those who are wise will refuse all of them, because there is so much to lose. You have a specific task to fulfil in God's will. If you don't take that seriously, you will easily fall for Satan's wiles.

In Hebrews 12:17, we are told that "afterwards", Esau wanted the birthright, but he could not get it. There will be an "afterwards" in all of our lives. Make sure that in that "afterwards", you have joy over having taken the right decisions, and no regrets.

Rest and Humility

In Matthew 11:28 to 30, Jesus spoke about having rest and having a burden. To paraphrase Jesus' words there, He was telling us to be at rest concerning all earthly burdens and to take His burden (yoke) upon our hearts. We can't carry the Lord's burdens until we give Him all our earthly burdens (" Cast your burden on the Lord - let Him have all your worries" - Psalm 55:22; " Don't be concerned about food and clothing. If you do want to be concerned about something, be concerned about the kingdom of God and His righteousness " - Matt.6:31, 33 - Paraphrase).

If your minds are full of anxieties and worries concerning earthly matters, you will be ineffective for the Lord. No doubt, you have to think about earthly matters, but you must not worry about any of them. Only those things that have eternal value should be a concern on your hearts. That is how we are different from the people of this earth. Even the results of the examinations that you do on earth have no eternal value. You must of course, do your best. But you must never worry about the result.

If you seek for 100% marks in seeking God's kingdom and His righteousness first, then you will be first in eternity. That is what I myself chose many years ago.

The paraphrase of Zephaniah 3:17 says, "God is silently planning for you in love", in everything that happens. And the Lord also reminds us , "What I do, you do not understand now, but you will understand later on" - (Jn.13:7).

I am convinced that because we your parents have sown God's Word into your lives for many years, we will see a rich harvest in your lives in the coming years. God will reward you with the best - spiritually first and then with whatever you need of earthly things as well. So I don't have any fear for any of the four of you.

Finally, let me encourage you once again (as I am encouraging people everywhere) to pursue after humility and to dwell in low thoughts of yourself. That does not mean low self-esteem or an underestimation of your worth to God as His child or of the gifts and abilities that God has given you. You are children of God - and so there is no place for low self-esteem. But it is only as you recognize that you are nothing before God, that God can become everything in your life. Others who know you must glorify God for what they see in you. This will involve your giving up your own choices in order to do God's will alone. It means giving God the glory at all times for whatever He h­as given you and determining to use all that He has given you for His glory alone.

Never, never look down or make fun of any human being, whatever his faults or defects may be. God gives abundant grace to the humble - and their spiritual progress will be phenomenal. May you walk in humility, all your days, as Jesus did.

God's Help in Examinations

We are praying that the Lord will give you intelligence over and above what you have naturally, for your final examinations. Remember the verse I used to give you to claim, when you were studying for your examinations in school here: Daniel 1:17, " God gave the four young men great ability to learn, and they soon mastered all the literature and science of the time ".

You can't experience God's promises unless you claim them in faith. " If anyone lacks wisdom (or intelligence), let him ask God Who gives to all liberally. But let him ask in faith " (James 1:5,6) " If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him ."(Matt.7:11). So claim your Father's promises for all things - little and big.

Victorious Christian Life

We have just finished an excellent conference in Bangalore - the best we ever had so far. Some of the messages have been on the following themes:

(a) We must adorn the doctrine we preach with a Christlike life.

(b) We must emphasize Divine Life and Fellowship always - which is what the Father, Son & Holy Spirit had from the beginning - and not be taken up with peripheral truths (1 John 1:3).

(c) We must trust God to raise us up from the dead, like He raised Jesus from the dead, if we give ourselves up to die to Self daily.

(d) Young people must overcome the `Goliaths' of sexual lust and spiritual pride, if they are to be preserved for God in these evil days. The world is flooded with unclean spirits (Rev.16:13) like the frogs in Egypt. But there must be no frogs in our bedrooms or in our minds.

(e) Money is a tremendous power that draws people away from God very subtly. If we love it, we will definitely hate God. If we hold on to it, we will despise God (Lk.16:13). Those who long to get rich will pierce themselves with many sorrows and suffer in many ways - not those whoare rich or who become rich but those who are longing to become rich. So we must fear the power of Money constantly.

(f) The only work that Jesus asked us to do to satisfy God is to believe in Him (Jn.6:28, 29). That means that in every situation and in every moment, the only thing that God wants us to do is to believe in Jesus, that He can handle everything that is happening in the world and to us, and can help us with everything that we need at any moment. Human reasoning says that we must always be good enough for God to work on our behalf. But we will never ever be good enough even in 10,000 years. So God gives His promises to those who believe in Him. Anyone who preaches another gospel is accursed - even if he is as holy as an angel from heaven (Gal.1:8, 9). Therefore, by simply believing, we can receive the Holy Spirit - and every other spiritual blessing too.

(g) God chose us before the foundation of the world - before we had done anything good or bad (Rom.9:11) - and decided to bless us with every blessing of the Spirit in Christ. Therefore He is not going to change His mind about us now.

I often think of what you are missing by not being able to be in Bangalore to attend our wonderful conferences here. I have wished many a time that you were here at home. But the Lord was the One Who opened the door for you to study in your colleges. So I pray that you will get your portion even there. The Lord can give you your portion, right where you are, if you seek Him - even though you are far away from us geographically - just like He sent His Spirit on Eldad and Medad even though they were far away from the tent where God was meeting with the others (Numbers 11:24-30). May the Lord bless you and preserve you in life and spiritual freshness at all times, until He returns.

Chapter 50
Chapter 50

God Has Planned Every Detail of Your Life

When we get to heaven, we will see the angels who protected us as we travelled on the roads here on earth. When we see the video-tape replay of our whole life in the final day, we will discover that there were a few thousand angels who protected us whom we have to thank. We may now be aware of only a few "near misses" that we had on the roads. But in that day, we will discover that there were many more such "misses" from which we were saved. So be thankful.

All things work together for our very best. After the accident I had a few years ago, I said, "Lord I haven't yet expressed my gratitude fully for what you did for me on Calvary. So please give me a little more time to say `Thank You'". Then I thought of this phrase: "Our lives must be a constant expression of gratitude to the Lord for what He did for us on the cross."

God has a purpose in everything. It says about Jacob that " by faith he worshipped God leaning on his staff (which actually was a crutch, because he could not walk without it any longer, since God had dislocated his thigh), and Jacob blessed others" (Heb.11:21). That staff (crutch) became a constant reminder to strong self-sufficient Jacob that he had to lean helplessly on God for everything. It was thus that he became Israel - a prince of God who had power with God and with men. It was when he had come to that weak state that he could bless others (as that verse says). I pray that you too will know something of that experience - of being broken of your human strength, so that you lean upon God alone, and become a far greater blessing to others than you could ever have been otherwise.

God has planned your life perfectly - every detail. He allows Satan to attack you, just as He allowed Satan to attack Jesus. But Jesus kept his spirit pure and you can keep your spirit pure too. " God knows every detail of what is happening to you" (Job 23:10 - Living), even when you are in trying circumstances; and He plans every detail too (Rom.8:28). So find your comfort in that. It is good to experience a leaning upon God alone, in circumstances where you find that "the help of man is vain". That is the only way to grow spiritually. C. T. Studd once said, " I love the luxury of a tight spot, so that I can see what miracle God will do for me there ".

It will bring a tremendous release in us when we realize that God the Father chose us, the Son of God purchased us with his blood and the Holy Spirit has now sealed us to be God's own (Eph.1:1-13). Our salvation was entirely of God's grace. God just waited for us to say "Yes" and then He did it all (Eph.2:1-8). He couldn't have saved us without getting our permission, for we are not robots.

Distinguishing Between the Voice of God and the Voice of Satan

It was with a good heart that Peter told Jesus not to go to the cross. But Jesus immediately recognized that suggestion as being the voice of Satan and told Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan. Your mind is set on man's interests and not on God's interests" (Matt.16:23). We see there that we can distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of Satan in our hearts only if our minds are set on God's interests. If our minds are set on our own interests primarily, then we can mistake the voice of Satan for the voice of God. So it is good in all that we do - even in your study, work and play - to have a heavenly perspective. Do all for the glory of God. Study well at college and play well on the field, and glorify God always - like Eric Liddell, who never compromised his convictions even when it meant the loss of an Olympic gold medal!! Never be ashamed to let others know that you have certain standards as a Christian. May the Lord help you to do so.

We are proud of you because of your earnest desire to honour God, in the midst of the battles you face there in college. We are praying for you regularly. We believe that the Lord will give you grace and strength to face and overcome every attack of the enemy by which he would try to make you compromise. The Lord is always on your side against Satan and He will enable you to overcome the evil one.

God has allowed many things on this earth to be attractive, so that we can prove when we are tempted by them, that we love God more than everything else on earth. Thus we put Satan to shame. The Creator is far greater, far more wonderful and far more satisfying than all of His creation. This is true and that is why we believe it. This faith of ours is what makes us overcome the attractions of the world. When we live by this faith blindly , our feelings will follow along, in due course. We must not look for feelings first.

Battling against Satan is good for our spirits. Only thus can we become strong. Be a good soldier of Christ. The Lord is depending on you. We too are depending on you to keep the flag of the Lord flying high and triumphant - so that the Lord's Name is never put to shame!

Living a Worthwhile Life

If soldiers can sacrifice so much for the sake of their country in order to keep their country independent and free, how much more we should be willing to sacrifice everything (even our lives), so that the Lord is honoured through our lives in every way, and Satan put to shame.

I hope you are finding grace from God supernaturally in your tasks. You can ask God to give you ideas for your study and work. God will help you. Ask in faith - and see what miracles He can do for you. It is as we prove Him in such circumstances that our faith gets strengthened. Honour God at all times. Those who honour Him always get the best in life in every area. I have proved that since the time I was born again, and to such an extent that I wish I could go around this world telling the following to people everywhere:

- Honour God in every area.

- Put God first in your affections at all times.

- Keep your conscience clean at all times.

- Only then will you be able to live a worthwhile life".

The biggest fools in this world are those who don't give importance to these matters, who think that they can live a worthwhile life with their talents and their earthly accomplishments. None of these can satisfy anyone ultimately.

John 15 is a wonderful chapter. Abiding is a picture of perfect rest (as the branch in the vine) without anxiety or tension - which is the result of faith that God cares for every detail of our life. There will be toil and hard work, but no anxiety or tension. The constant flow of sap from the tree to the branch illustrates the need for the constant infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Phariseeism and Legalism

We had a very blessed New Year's conference. The theme was " Freedom from Phariseeism and Legalism". I think it liberated many of the brothers and sisters from petty rules and regulations such as " Touch not, taste not, handle not..." etc., that they had been labouring under. We thought of two good practices for the new year: (1) Judge yourself every day and (2) Be merciful to others every day. These two things will make the final day of judgment easy for everyone (See James 2:13).

Everything that you have gone through (and that you will go through in the coming days) is designed by God to give you a ministry to others in the world who have blundered and failed (which comprises 100% of the people in the world), to give them great hope. Even your personality, your I.Q., your grades, your upbringing and your education are all part of that perfect plan of God. So praise the Lord!

I want to suggest something to all of you as you begin this new year.

Seek the Lord for two things: (1) That He will show you from His Word how powerful His justification is that He actually sees you as if you had never sinned up until today. (2) To be totally free from the opinions of all men. We don't realize how much we are enslaved to what people think of us. If you work on these two things, you can be a very effective vessel in the Lord's hands. Satan often tries to make us think we are humble when we grovel in the memory of our past failures. But the only time we should think of our past failures is when we are tempted to be hard on someone else (2 Pet.1:9) - not otherwise.

If you are clear on these two points, your life will take off like a rocket without anything to hold you down. Don't try to reason these matters out rationally or intellectually. Just believe God's Word and trust it.

Self-condemnation and discouragement are always from Satan. You must never live in the past. Stop thinking about your past failures - and your past successes as well. And when you fall, jump up immediately and continue running the race straightaway. Don't ever give up.

Chapter 51
Chapter 51

Three Marriages

Here is a simple illustration of our being free from sin and free from the Law.

Marriage Number One : In our unconverted days, we were all married to the old man, as our husband. He was an evil husband who always asked us to do sinful things. But God killed that husband when we were born again (" Your old man was crucified with Christ" - Rom.6:6) so that we could be free from him.

Marriage Number Two : But then instead of marrying Christ, we married the Law thinking that he was Christ. Unlike the old man, the Law is a perfect husband who demands perfection in all areas (and so his demands can't be questioned), This husband's demands are all righteous, but he never lifts a finger to help us! And we are miserable. Our life is one of perpetual struggle to please God, but we never succeed for too long. This is life under the Law. And there appears to be no possibility of escape from this marriage, because the Law is perfect and can never die. But yet God makes a way for us to be set free from this marriage. He kills the wife (we die) and thus the marriage is dissolved (Rom.7:1-4). Thus we are free from legalism and the Law.

Marriage Number Three : Then God raises the wife (us) from the dead and we now gladly choose to be united to Christ (Rom.7:4). This is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Christ too is as perfect as the Law. But He is a helpful husband. In fact He does 99% of the work. And He never compels us. What a wonderful husband! This is the real Christian life - a partnership where Christ and you are under a common yoke (Matt.11:29). This is the overcoming life.

The sin of adultery (physical adultery) crouches very close to every man at all times - exactly as God told Cain, " Sin is crouching at your door, waiting to conquer you. But you must master it " (Gen.4:7). So the only way of escape is: (1) By having a great fear of God (like Joseph had - Gen.39:9) and (2) By avoiding all provocative situations where you are alone with a girl (like Joseph did) (Gen.39:10; 1 Cor.6:18; 2 Tim.2:22). You must also be alert to recognize where your conversation with a girl becomes flippant. Then you are in danger. You must be very sensitive to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when He tells you to stop a conversation with a girl, or to go away immediately from her presence. Only thus can you survive in the wicked atmosphere that there is in many colleges. Keep this in mind at all times, and you will be saved from a lifetime of regret.

Jesus demonstrated in His life, the inner rest that there can be in a life where God is the only Person Who matters. God is seeking for people now who will show through their lives that this world's value system is wrong - that money is not everything, that education and sex, human love and marriage are also not everything, and that even comfortable living is not everything. All these things are good in their place. But we are called to demonstrate to the world that God alone is everything. This is true Christianity. All the other good things can find their proper place in our lives only when God becomes everything to us.

Being a Perfect Guest

As I celebrate my birthday today, I think of the four of you, my sons, as the birthday gifts God has given me. It has been a real joy to be a father to all of you. You have made my task very easy. And as you have grown up, I have been proud to see you all take a stand for the Lord on your own - quite apart from us, your Dad and Mom. That is how I wanted it to be. I wanted you all to grow up to become my brothers in Christ - for that is what we will be for all eternity.

And here is a bit of advice concerning your conduct, when you stay in other people's homes. It is probably unnecessary for me to tell you all this, because I have said all this to you before. But I will still repeat myself:

(1) Make friends with the children in the home. This is one of the primary things that distinguishes the followers of Jesus from the followers of the Pharisees. The first principle of all effective ministry is: "Jesus was made in all things like His brethren" (Heb.2:17). So when you are with children in their home, be like them. Come down to their level and talk with them and play with them. Let them see Jesus in you. Paul said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all means I may save some" (1 Cor.9:22). Play with the children. Jesus must have done this when He walked on this earth. I read of a handicapped child who had a vision once where he saw himself in heaven playing with a bat and ball with Jesus. I can believe that vision more than many other visions that people speak of. When Jesus reigns on earth, the children will be playing - not praying but playing - on the streets (Zech.8:5)!!

(2) Be considerate of others at the dining table. Don't be gluttonous. Be disciplined in your eating.

(3) Help with the washing-up of the dishes after each meal.

(4) Do your bed each morning, and keep your things and your room neat and tidy.

(5) Spend the minimum time in the bathroom and toilet, as an act of consideration for others who will also want to use it. When I stay in homes where there is only one bathroom or toilet, I find out at what time the others usually use these rooms. So I use them either before or after that time, so as to make it available for the others when they need to use them.

(6) Don't forget to express your sincere gratitude to your hosts (especially to the lady of the house), when you are leaving. And, leave a small cash-gift behind and ask them to get something for their children.

I know that you are already doing all these things, for I have heard excellent reports about you from every house you have visited so far. And I am proud of you. I am repeating these simple guidelines here only for emphasis.

Little Eagles Must Learn to Fly

It is good to be cast upon God alone for the future, and not on the changing laws of employment in different companies and nations. If you seek God's kingdom first, you will find all the other things you need for life added to you. No-one can frustrate God's perfect plan for your life, if God's plan is all that you want - and His plan is always the best.

Jesus lived in dependence on the witness of the Spirit and did not lean on His own reason, when He decided to be baptized by John. That is the way we are to live too. We must certainly use our mind and reason. But the Spirit's witness must always be supreme.

I have often wished that all of you were closer to Bangalore so that we could meet together more often. But the nest has to be stirred up so that the little eaglets learn to fly on their own. That is God's order for His creation and so we submit to it (Deut.32:11). We only pray that all of you will learn to fly, even if you do fall to the ground, now and then, while learning to fly. God will always be faithful to pick you up.

" Underneath you are the everlasting arms. God will thrust out your enemies before you saying, `Destroy them' " (Deut.33:27).

" If you fall, it won't be fatal, for the Lord will hold you up with His hand. The Lord never forsakes a man who loves Him, and the children of the godly will never go hungry. Instead, the godly are able to be generous with their gifts, and their children are a blessing " (Psa.37:24-26 - Living).

You all have been a blessing to many here in Bangalore, and especially to the children in the church. And so, it is not just we, but many in the church too, who miss you, now that you have left Bangalore. The children in the church really enjoyed your recent visit.

The Danger of Being Religious

Don't let anything that happens ever discourage you, because if you hold on to the Lord, He will help you overcome every situation - whatever it be. Every trial is designed by Him to enable you to get to know Him better. This is where both unbelievers and worldly believers fail. Instead of turning to God, they turn to the world and experiment with forbidden substances in order to get relaxation and peace in their failure or distress. Don't ever try such things. It is very easy to get addicted even to things that look harmless initially.

Perfection is attained not by those who never fail, but by those who are honest about their failures and who jump up immediately as soon as they fall, and press on.

We always face the danger of becoming `religious' and thinking that is `spirituality'. Religious people are taken up with the externals - external sacrifices for the Lord, external rituals connected with their understanding of what the minimum is that they must do in order to keep in good standing in their church, in church activities, in external details of their dress, in intellectual study of the Word (without practical application), and in emotional meetings (imagining such emotionalism to be evidence of the power of the Spirit) etc. None of these things are wrong or even unimportant. But for religious people, these activities are primary and they imagine these to be the marks of spirituality, and are thus deceived.

Truly spiritual people however, are taken up with wanting to know God better, seeking to preserve themselves in a fervent love for Jesus and for their fellow-believers, seeking to find out what God wants them to do (rather than `doing something for God'), seeking for the power of the Holy Spirit, and cleansing themselves of selfish motives in their actions. Religious people build congregations. Spiritual people build the Body of Christ.

God is looking across the world for men who will stand up for Him; unlike the Pharisees who had truth warped and out of proportion and who strained out mosquitoes and swallowed camels. God is looking for men who will stand for the principles of His Word, men like Elijah, John the Baptist and Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley and Eric Liddell, who stood for what they believed, whatever the cost might be. God is going to populate heaven with such people of principle. I pray that you will be in that number. You will have ample opportunity to stand up for the Lord in college. May you do so on every occasion.

Many godly men have given their lives to translate the Bible into English and to preserve the pure message of the gospel in past centuries. But unfortunately, today, many believers do not spend even five minutes to read the Bible in their homes, and much less to study it. Many godly men in past centuries may not have had the clear understanding of doctrine that we have today. But they had a fervent devotion to Christ such as is rarely found these days - and that is what matters most in the final analysis - not just correctness of doctrine.

Forgetfulness is not a serious matter like sin. But overcoming it can save you a lot of inconveniences. We are all forgetful. What I do now to overcome my forgetfulness is to write down important matters that I need to do, in a small pocketbook that I carry with me always. I also write down the things the Lord speaks to me. I find that if I don't write them down, I often forget what the Lord spoke.

Chapter 52
Chapter 52

Perplexity and Wisdom

I want you to know that being perplexed when we are seeking to find the will of God about something is perfectly normal. It is the way God trains us to walk by faith - for certainty can be the equivalent of walking by sight.

Even the apostle Paul was perplexed many a time, not knowing the will of God. He says he was " perplexed because we don't know why things happen as they do. But we don't give up and quit " (2 Cor.4:8 - Living Bible).

One reason why God allows us to be perplexed and to make mistakes is so that "no man will boast before Him" (1 Cor.1:29). No one will be able to say in eternity that because he did all the right things, he fulfilled God's perfect will. Our glorying in eternity will only be this - that God fulfilled His perfect will in us, even though we made so many mistakes and even though we committed so many blunders. That is certainly my testimony. Thus God alone will get all the glory, and we get nothing. It is because many believers have not seen this ultimate purpose of God that they feel discouraged whenever they fail or whenever they are perplexed concerning God's ways and His will. God's ways are not our ways. They are as different as heaven is from earth (Is.55:8, 9).

Divine wisdom is a great thing to have. One aspect of wisdom is the ability to order our priorities aright - how much time to spend in academic studies, in God's Word, for work, for sleep, and for relaxation etc. It is in ordering their priorities that most believers fail, especially after they are married and have a family. So it is good to acquire some of that wisdom now, when you are young and single. James says that if you lack wisdom (and we all lack it), you can ask God for it, and He will give it to you liberally. So ask!

I want to encourage you all to read Chapter 6 of my book FINDING GOD'S WILL. There I have spoken about deliverance from indecision, freedom from regret over past decisions and freedom from the fear of making mistakes.

The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. Apart from Jesus Himself, no-one ever learned to walk in God's perfect will without making mistakes." The steps of good men are directed by the Lord.....If they fall it isn't fatal, for the Lord holds them with His Hand " (Psa. 37:23,24-Living). So don't be afraid of making mistakes. God will protect you from making serious mistakes.

Fulfilling the Perfect Will of God

I read today about how God is going to shake everything that is founded on "created things" (Heb.12:27) - and that refers to all who have valued created things more than their Creator. This was the sin of Adam and Eve and also of Esau (Heb.12:16) who is called `godless' (meaning one who does not give God His rightful place in his life). Romans 1:25 speaks of those who "worship and serve the creature more than the Creator". I pray that all of you will live all your lives as those who give God His rightful place in your lives - more than your job, or girls, or pleasure, or comfort, or money, or honour.

There is nothing greater that we, your parents, could ever pray for you than this, that you fulfil the perfect will of God in your life in every area. The most important steps in life after becoming a disciple of Jesus, are the steps of marriage and employment - in that order. We continuously pray that you will be in His perfect will in these two matters. All other matters are trivial compared to these two. Even which college you study in and what courses you take are trivial compared to marriage and employment. So seek the will of God earnestly in these two important matters.

We will be praying that you will find the right opening for employment that the Lord has reserved for you. You must claim the promise in Numbers 10:33, " The ark (presence) of the Lord went ahead of them to search out a resting place for them - a place where you will be at perfect rest and not restless (as many are in the offices that they work in)! " If the Lord did that for them under the old covenant, how much more He will do it for us who are under the new covenant. I have no fear for any of you, my sons, as long as you are seeking God's kingdom and His righteousness first in all things and seeking to honour Him in all matters. Nothing can go wrong then. I have proved that for over 34 years now. (*Note: And now for 57 years).

"What have you got that you did not receive from God?" (1 Cor.4:7). Nothing at all. It was God Who gave you your intelligence, your health and opportunities to study and work and Who " supplied you richly with every good thing to enjoy" (1 Tim.6:17). We have prayed for you at each step along your life's pathway - and God has answered our prayers. For this we are very grateful. We rejoice to see how God has matured you all spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. God has prepared you to face life. In the tough immoral environment of college-life, you have struggled and overcome. Praise the Lord!

Remember that "God is the Blessed Controller of all things" (1 Tim.6:15 - JB Philips paraphrase). Daniel 4:35 is also a good verse to bear in mind: " All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, God does according to His will in heaven and among all the inhabitants of earth. No-one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What are You doing? '"

A little time with God in the mornings can make all the difference to your day - the way things go. Don't forget that. So, getting out of bed 10 minutes earlier is worth the effort. You save much more than 10 minutes thereby during the day - for the efficiency-conscious. Although it is not for greater efficiency that we spend time with God. We do so because we acknowledge thereby that He is most important in our daily lives.

Work Out Your Salvation

Philippians 2:12, 13 says, " Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, since it is God who is at work within you to will and to do of His good pleasure ".

Here are a couple of points concerning this verse:

(i) Salvation (in the past tense) is first of all salvation from the wrath and judgment of God. This salvation is a free gift from God and we can never work to get it. Jesus has "finished" it for us on the cross. But salvation also refers to being saved ( present tense) from Adam's nature (the flesh) and our sinful, worldly behaviour (tone of voice, irritation, impurity, materialism, etc.). This is the salvation spoken of in the above verse. Here are the three tenses of our salvation:

We have been saved from the penalty of sin.

We are being saved from the power of sin.

We will be saved from the presence of sin one day, when Christ returns.

(ii) Whenever God's Word speaks about God working in us, it always refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And His primary task is to sanctify us (set us apart from sin and the world) and to make us holy. So what God "works in " us, we have to "work out". When God speaks to us pointing out some attitude or thought or behaviour in us that needs to change, that is God "working in us". When we accept that correction and " cleanse ourselves from that particular filthiness of flesh or spirit that He points out " (see 2 Cor.7:1) - that particular habit in our life - then we are " working out our salvation".

The Greatest Thing is to be A Disciple Of Jesus

The Lord takes us all through some difficult experiences as part of our spiritual education. For example, He may allow others to ridicule us for our faith. Most people who tease us are riddled with an " inferiority complex", and are jealous of us. So we have to feel sorry for them. But the good that their ridicule works in us, is that we become more free from the opinions of men. Looking back over my life I now see that all the ridicule that I faced for my faith from my fellow-officers on ships in the Navy (when I was young) and what I have faced thereafter - has all helped me to be free from seeking to please men. And thus the Lord prepared me for my ministry.

When you are without fellowship, as you sometimes are, you should look at that as a "desert experience" like Paul had in Arabia for three years (Gal.1:17,18) where he got to know the Lord more intimately and personally.

Remember that our Lord Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. He has not abdicated His throne. Everything that He allows in your life has been designed with a purpose - even the desert experiences. David said, " I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the godly forsaken nor his seed begging for bread " (Psa.37:25). We live by faith and not by sight - knowing perfectly well that one day we will sing in heaven, "My Jesus has done all things well" (Mark 7:37).

Getting a good job is not the greatest thing in life. The greatest thing is to be a disciple of Jesus. God has made me supremely happy, because I know He called me to be in India. But I have never asked anyone else to stay on in India - not even you, my own sons - because I know that each person is called by God to his own unique ministry. Your calling and ministry is different from mine - because each part of Christ's Body has a different task. However what I do wish for you all is that you should seek only the glory of God and be in the perfect will of God at all times - wherever that may be - because I know that that is the very best way for anyone to live.

God " works around the world on behalf of those whose hearts are completely His " (2 Chron.16:9). And so He will work on your behalf too. May you all be a powerful testimony for the Lord in your generation.

Spiritual Growth through Blessing Others

Try and look for opportunities to start a Bible-study for a few believers somewhere - maybe once a fortnight or once a week. Ask the Lord and He will guide you. We must look for such opportunities to serve the Lord and bless others. Those who attend must become interested. So keep the meeting brief and don't let it drag on to the point of boredom. Make the study practical and never theoretical. You all know the Scriptures fairly well and you have heard so much in CFC Bangalore and in our home for many years. So it will be easy to lead such a Bible-study for many who are ignorant of the Scriptures. Ask God to help you. The whole exercise of leading a Bible-study can help you to grow spiritually too. This is what I found when I did that in my youth - when I was 23 years old.

Seek the Lord to be constantly anointed with His Spirit and for the gift of prophecy (" the ability to speak the Word according to the need of your hearers "). Don't imagine that asking for the gift of prophecy is pride. That is how Satan fools people. The Holy Spirit urges every believer to eagerly seek for the gift of prophecy (1 Cor.14:1). So seek for this gift. If you don't ask God for something that you need - in any area - you won't get it. You must be bold to ask - for material necessities, for intelligence, for a solution for some problem at work, or for any problem in general. God allows us to encounter problems so that we may go to Him and find the solution. How boring life would be, if we never encounter any storms that Jesus stills! So, ask - and keep on asking so that your joy may be full.

Seek God for Wisdom and Help

Don't ever let anything discourage you - nothing physical, material, academic or spiritual or whatever. Discouragement is always from Satan - yes, always - and never from God. And Satan's purpose is to lead you into sin by getting you discouraged first. Loneliness and homesickness can also become sources of discouragement - if you are not careful. You must battle them and overcome. God will give you grace. As you know we are praying for you daily.

May the Lord warn you in advance of dangers that He sees ahead o you, that you cannot see, and of factors that you have not considered. May the Lord give you wisdom and protect you.

God has promised wisdom to those who ask Him in faith (James 1:5). You won't get it if you don't ask or if you ask but don't believe that God will definitely give you the wisdom you need.

Remember however that God's aim is not to help you to make more money but to make you more like Christ. Whatever earthly prosperity God sees fit to give you, He will give you. But that won't be primary - because the task of accumulating money has been given by God to worldly people - and not to us (See Eccl.2:26b).

Chapter 53
Chapter 53

Managing Finances and the Right Balance in Life

One of the disciplines you must learn as a student is to manage your finances.

You have seen how we have lived at home: We have never ever given anyone the impression that we needed their financial help, even when we were in need. We trusted God even when we had very little. God has blessed the little that we invested many years ago and has made it grow into much. " The bowl of flour has never been exhausted and the jar of oil has never become empty " (1 Kings 17:14-16). That is how Mom and I have experienced God's faithfulness in providing all our earthly needs, ever since we were married.

You must never give anyone the impression that you are the sons of a poor preacher. No. You are the sons of a rich Heavenly Father. But that does not mean that you should waste money like rich people do, because God teaches us to be frugal in the way we live. However, we don't want to boast about the way we have lived as a family. At the same time, we don't want to judge other preachers who are parasites on their churches. But we do want to live the way Jesus wants us to live in financial matters.

As you start earning money, you must learn to be frugal andcareful (both are good qualities), without being stingy and miserly (which are bad qualities). Be careful to avoid all unnecessary expenditure - and God will reward you with spiritual riches. You need wisdom from God to differentiate between how to be frugal without being miserly.

And now a word about your work and study. The important thing is to get your priorities right - and to ensure that you spend your time on the most important things first and then do other things on a descending scale of priorities. Thus you can make the most of your youthful years. May the Lord give you wisdom to work out that priority-order.

Your studies and your profession (through which you have to earn your living finally) will naturally be one of your top priorities, for God has designed that we spend most of our time in a secular occupation. He is the One Who taught us to pray for our daily bread - and your studies and your work are all means to that end. Doing well in your studies and your work is therefore a way for you to glorify God - even as Jesus did for 12 to 15 years in the carpenter-shop at Nazareth. However, like Him, you must do everything with eternity's perspective in view at all times.

Standing True to the Lord

Remember that one man with God is a majority. There is much that God can do through just you - if you keep yourself pure, loving, good and humble. So preserve yourself in these virtues at all times. Like the hymn says, " There's a work for Jesus that none but you can do ".

May you always have a hunger after God and may you live by faith and not by sight. I hope you will always be good and gracious to all people. Thus you can make many friends. And that is also a good testimony for the Lord. Ask God to give you grace to overcome bad moods, so that your friends will be glad to be with you. May many people be thankful in eternity that your path crossed theirs on earth.

I pray that you will always have a large heart towards the needy and towards those who are sincerely serving the Lord. The Lord will repay you abundantly for your goodness towards them. But beware of crooked preachers (there are many of them) and of those who are always looking for a gift. Stay away from such people.

"Flee youthful lusts" is an exhortation that you should never tire of hearing as long as you live in this world. Someone has said. " Temptation is like fire. It can burn you even if you are 100 years old ." The way in which you respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to flee from youthful lusts at all times will determine to a great extent, the measure of your joy or regret in eternity. I pray that it will be only joy for all of you.

God Honours Those Who Honour Him

Whenever you greet us on our birthdays, we see it as an indication that you truly value us as your parents - and so we rejoice in it. We are always deeply touched by your expressions of appreciation.

I am thankful for the grace that the Lord has given us to go triumphantly through every trial that we have faced as a family. Satan inspired many people to trouble us, because they were jealous of us. But we received grace from God to overcome Satan, and to keep a good attitude toward all who spoke evil of us and who sought to harm us - although none of them could actually harm us. Everything people did has only worked for our good, as promised in Romans 8:28.

Remember that all the evil things that others say about us cannot make us evil, and all the good things that others say about us cannot make us good . We ourselves decide what we become - and that depends on our taking up our cross daily and following Jesus, and reacting in a Christlike way to others, whatever they may say or do to us.

Even our past failures - however deep and great they may be - cannot hinder God's purpose for our lives from being fulfilled, if we determine that we are going to make up for our past by being even more wholehearted in the future. I let down the Lord in many ways after I was born again. But I decided in 1975 (when I was nearly 36 years old, and we started meeting together as a church in our home), that I would be more wholehearted than others who had not failed the Lord like I had done. And today after all these years, I can say that God has honoured my decision by giving me grace in greater and greater measure, year after year. So I know from personal experience that God does not choose those who have a blameless record or those who have never slipped up and failed. In fact He often uses the most, those who have failed the most. This is what has given me great hope for the worst of sinners who have come to our church.

The Shunemite woman when asked by Elisha whether all was well with her and her child, said, "Yes, all is well", even though her child had just died (2 Kings 4:8, 26)! That was amazing faith - that she could say that. God honoured her faith, by raising her son from the dead! God does amazing things for those who trust in Him. Such people will never be put to shame, in any situation. May you live with such a faith in God always - in the tight spots that you may find yourselves in, at times, or when you fail God miserably (which can also happen). Remember that the Lord can bring a resurrection out of any "dead" situation. All you have to do is to be honest with Him. (You don't have to confess your sins to any man, but you must be totally honest with the Lord).

Blessed to Bless Others

We are called to be blessed by the Lord and thus to be a blessing to every family (and person) that we meet on earth. Galatians 3:14 says that Christ became a curse for us on the cross so that Abraham's blessing might be ours through the gift of the Holy Spirit. That blessing is found in Genesis 12:2, 3 where God told Abraham, " I will bless you and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you ". That is why we ask God that we might be continually filled with His Holy Spirit.

This is your inheritance. So claim it and live in it in the coming new year and always. Keep your conscience clear at all times, through repentance and confession of sin, so that the channel is not choked for the blessing to flow.

First of all , God wants to bless you in everything you do - spiritual, material, physical, academic, professional and everything else. God's promises are: "Whatever you do will prosper " (Psa.1:3) " You will have success in everything you do" (Josh.1:8). In this new covenant age, God wants to bless and prosper you and make you successful, first of all in your spiritual life, and then in material things as well - unlike in old covenant times when they were blessed only with material blessings.

Secondly , God wants to bless others through your life. They should taste something of God's life in you. The result will be that to some you will be "an aroma of life" and to others (who reject God), you will be an "aroma of death" (2 Cor.2:16).

For all this to be fulfilled, you must seek with great eagerness to be filled with the Holy Spirit constantly.

Our earthly work is only a means to earn our living, so that we can serve the Lord, without being dependent on anyone financially. But we must long to be a blessing to as many people on earth as possible in our one short life on earth.

The famous preachers in India usually preach only in the big cities. They hardly ever take time to sit down with the simple, poor (and illiterate) people in the villages. So I am glad that God has given us the privilege and honour of serving the poor people in the villages in India. I preach the gospel of an overcoming life there - and the Lord plants churches there. And Mom conducts medical clinics for the poor women and children there. We are both immensely blessed by our service to these people.

It is amazing to see the places that God has taken our tapes and our literature to. They have gone to every continent - to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Many preachers are also using the material from our books and tapes in their own messages in their churches. Thus the Word goes even further, into churches where I could never go. Praise the Lord. We have encouraged people to use our material freely, as long as they live it and don't seek to make money through it.

Two Inspiring Poems

Here are a couple of inspiring poems that have blessed me recently:

I'M DRINKING FROM THE SAUCER

I've never made a fortune - and I'll never make one now.

But it really doesn't matter, 'cause I'm happy anyhow.

As I go along my journey, I'm reaping better than I sowed;

I'm drinking from the saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.

I don't have a lot of riches and sometimes the going's rough

BUT WHILE I'VE GOT MY KIDS TO LOVE ME, I THINK I'M RICH ENOUGH.

I'll just thank God for the blessings that His mercy has bestowed;

I'm drinking from the saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage when the way grows steep and rough

I'll not ask for other blessings, I'm already blessed enough

May I never be too busy to help bear another's load;

Then I'll be drinking from the saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.

(Author Unknown)

GOD'S VERY BEST

God has His best things for the few who dare to stand the test;

God has His second choice for those who will not have His best.

It is not always open sin that risks the promised rest;

The `Better' often is the foe that keeps us from the `Best'.

There's scarcely one but vaguely wants in some way to be blessed;

"'Tis not Thy blessing, Lord, I seek; I want Thy very best."

Some seek God's highest choice, but then - when they're by trials pressed,

They shrink, they yield, they shun the cross and so they miss God's best.

I want in this short life of mine as much as can be pressed

Of service true for God and man. I want God's very best.

"Give me, O Lord, Thy highest choice, let others take the rest;

Their good things have no charm for me, I want Thy very best."

I want amid the victors' throng to have my name confessed;

And hear my Master say at last, "Well done! You got My best."

(A.B.Simpson)

May you all be the very best for our Lord.

Chapter 54
Chapter 54

Make God the Ruler of Your Lives

I always pray that you will seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first at all times. Then you will prosper in everything you do and God will work on your behalf like a Mighty Champion (Jerem.20:11). This is what I have experienced all through my life.

Seeking God's kingdom does not refer primarily to evangelism or missionary work. It means to make God the Ruler of your life, to live at all times under God's authority, and to allow His heavenly values to take precedence over the pull of money, earthly pleasures and man's honour.

To seek God's righteousness first means to long for His nature to be manifested in your inner life and in every part of your external behaviour.

May this truth grip you all your days. I can leave this earth happily, if I see that you are all gripped by this truth.

And when you have children, you must teach your children also this truth, so that they too can find the same result in their lives. Thus, generation after generation the Lord will have a witness on earth, through our family-line, until He returns.

It is Not about Doctrine but Life

Paul speaks about "the holiness which is no illusion" (Eph.4:24 - J.B. Philips translation). This does not come through understanding doctrine but through Jesus Himself living His life through us. The secret of godliness mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16 is not thedoctrine of Jesus having come in our flesh, butJesus Himself Who came in our flesh. It is by looking unto Jesus and not at any doctrine that we are going to be transformed into His likeness (2 Cor.3:18). Remember this all your life.

Every doctrine can lead you astray: (1) if you don't keep your eyes on the Lord Himself, and (2) if you do not love all who love Him, whichever group they are in, and whatever doctrine they may hold. Jesus Himself is the Head of the church which is His Body. But if a doctrine becomes the Head, then people will become Pharisees - and the purer the doctrine, the greater the Pharisees that will be produced! Remember the words of the hymn: "Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord".

The image we present as a church must be consistent with the image Jesus presented of the Father - especially what we see in John 8:1-12, where He was on the side of the repentant adulteress against the religious Pharisees. Jesus preached the highest standard of holiness ever preached on earth, and yet He mingled with the worst of sinners (e.g. Mary Magdalene, who was given the privilege to be the first to see the risen Lord). He never once criticised such sinners or reminded them about their past. This is our calling as a church too - to preach the same standard of holiness that Jesus preached, and yet to be warm to the worst of sinners and backsliders, to draw them to Him.

Our church is like a hospital, where the worst cases are welcome. They can all be cured. No-one need feel that he or she is too wretched to be helped. Some churches are like clubs where the rich and the self-satisfied meet together. But we want to be a hospital for the worst of sinners.

No Discouragement or Condemnation

Let me now share a few thoughts on the importance of discipline in the Christian life. Discipline is not an easy matter, but it is essential if you are to be spiritual men. If you are undisciplined now, don't let thatdiscourage you or make you feel condemned - because discouragement and self-condemnation are worse than being indisciplined. Turn around from the past and ask the Lord to help you to be a disciplined man in the coming days.

The Lord has taken all of us just as we are, and accepted us in Christ. So we must press on regardless - even when we discover that our past indisciplined way of life has made us me suffer loss. There is nothing really important in this world except (1) to avoid sin and (2) to do God's will. If we are all right in these two areas, then we have got 99.9% right. Those are the areas where we must press on to perfection. Even loss of money is secondary. When we fail, we must seek for grace from God to do things better the next time - even if the next time is the one-thousandth time that we are trying to do the same thing better! God is so good - and He will certainly help us.

Wisdom

The greatest need in the Christian life is for wisdom. And thefirst qualification to get it is to acknowledge that we lack it (James 1:5). That is not easy to acknowledge when we are young or even when we are old. But to the one who constantly acknowledges it, wisdom will be granted in abundance! So the greatest wisdom for us is to acknowledge that we lack Divine wisdom! May you have grace to acknowledge this lack and thus be filled with the wisdom of God for every situation and for every relationship. God's ways are not our ways. His ways are perfect - and He will make our ways perfect too.

Don't waste the trials and sorrows that come your way. Get some glory out of each of them. And remember what we have always said in the church, that we never talk about the past except as it will make us wiser and more careful and more wholehearted in the future. But we must never let our past make us discouraged or make us wish, "If only I had....." or "If only I hadn't". God works in mysterious ways and uses even our failures and blunders to glorify His Name. These are all a part of His ways to break us and make us like Jesus. If we have learnt the lessons, then we must leave the past behind us and press on. There is much to thank God for in every trial that we face. So praise the Lord.

There is no mountain that stands in the way of your doing the will of God that can remain there if you command it to be removed in Jesus' name (Mark 11:22-25). Remember that. Every such mountain is a challenge to your faith and not a signal to retreat.

Salvation is by Grace

We all need the assurance of God's acceptance. If you read through Romans and Galatians particularly, you will see how fiercely Paul fought to preserve the gospel in its pure form - describing eternal life as a free gift from God (Rom.6:23), and not something that is earned. He says that if anyone preaches another gospel, he is accursed (Gal.1:8). Salvation is only by grace through faith. Because many have misused this truth, others have reacted and preached the law again to keep believers in line. But I have seen that that is not the answer, because what happens then is that the devil wins both groups - those who abuse grace and those who live in perpetual insecurity.

Feelings of insecurity may not be as bad as misusing grace, because we do not lose our salvation through such feelings. But they render us totally ineffective for God on earth. It is unbelief (and not humility) to imagine that we are still unclean after the blood of Christ has cleansed our sins. That is actually insulting God, for that is exalting our sins over Christ's blood.

Grace first forgives our sins and then keeps us from falling into sin as well (Rom.6:14). This is the "the true grace of God" (1 Pet.5:12). Those who believe in this full grace of God are the most effective in reaching out to unbelievers.

Christ Working Through Us

Here is a well-known statement - but slightly modified by me in the second line.

"Only one life - it will soon be past -

Only what Christ does through us will last."

The second line is my adaptation of the usual, " Only what is done for Christ will last", because a lot that is done for Christ today is not according to God's will. It is man doing things in his own zeal, without any leading from God - for example, going out into full-time Christian work, just because there is a need, without a specific call from God. That may be sacrificial, but God wants obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam.15:22).

When people leave our church, it has never disturbed me, because I see that heaven also was once emptied of one-third of its angels (See Rev.12:3,4 where the "stars" are angels - Job 38:7). But that sifting made heaven purer! Jesus' preaching also made many people leave Him until only eleven were left behind who were sincere (John 6:60,66,70). Those eleven were not perfect but they were sincere!

Never Tread Into the Forbidden

Most believers don't understand the difference between temptation and sin. They don't also understand that the more faithful we are in battling against temptation, the easier the struggle against temptation will become.

That is why among believers there are different degrees of struggle with temptation - because they have yielded in different degrees to those very temptations in their past lives. For example, those believers who smoked cigarettes, or drank alcohol or used bad language extensively in their unconverted days struggle with those habits even after conversion, when tempted in those areas. But why is it that you don't have a struggle in those matters? Because you did not indulge in those habits in the past.

We know that Jesus never yielded even once to any temptation. So we cannot analyze or understand how the struggle against temptation was for Him. And we should never try to analyze His inner life. The people of Beth-shemesh "looked inside the ark of the Lord" - and God killed many of them for their irreverence (1 Sam.6:19). It is equally irreverent for us to try and analyze the inner life of Jesus. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us" (Deut.29:29).

The second epistle of John reveals two cliffs of error. Here is the first one: " Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh " (2 John 7). And here is the cliff on the other side: " Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God ' (2 John 9).

We know only what is revealed -that Jesus was tempted like us in all points, but did not sin (Heb.4:15). It is enough for us to know that - and stop there - and follow His example.

One thing we do know clearly is that Jesus' inner being was totally pure. The Bible says He was a spotless Lamb - without any blemish. Otherwise He could not have become a sinless sacrifice for our sins. Jesus did not come in sinful flesh but only " in the likeness of sinful flesh " (Rom.8:3). He had no sin in Him. He was born as "a holy Child" as the angel told Mary (Luke 1:35).

Chapter 55
Chapter 55

Justified in Christ

When we confess our sins (however many and however great they may have been) to God, He forgives us and cleanses us immediately (1 John 1:9). And let me repeat what I have often told you: God will not then remember our sins any more (See Heb.8:12). He blots out all our sins in Christ's blood. And if God doesn't remember our sins any more, there is no need for us to remember them any more either. We never need to confess our sins to any human being at any time. We should never exalt the greatness of our sins over the power of Christ's blood that has cleansed them all away completely. The blood of Christ also justifies us (Rom.5:9). That means that God declares us to be righteous in His sight now. We should believe that, confess it and live accordingly.

I encourage everyone to stand on the Word of God that says: "What God has cleansed you are no longer to consider unholy" (Acts 10:15, 16). Peter needed to see that vision thrice to be convinced of it. He still stumbled later on this matter (Gal.2:11-13). But we need not stumble even once. The Accuser of the brethren must be given no room by our giving anyone even a chance to discuss matters that God has cleansed - because that is an insult both to a righteous God Who has justified us as well as to the blood of Christ that has cleansed us. And we should not insult either of these - even in our thoughts - even once. This is the stand that you must take. Let others fellowship with the Accuser, if they want to. But we will not.

Confess Your Sins Only to God

In the Roman Catholic church, they have a practice of people confessing their sins to the priest. Some Protestant churches also encourage believers to confess their sins to one another and teach that every believer must have an "accountability partner" to whom he confesses all his sins regularly, as a way to overcome sin. Such a teaching is never found anywhere in the New Testament. It is the teaching of human psychology and not of the Holy Spirit. Yet, many believers have blindly accepted this false teaching and practise it. The Bible never speaks anywhere of having an accountability partner.That way of avoiding sin is actually pursuing holiness through the fear of man - avoiding sin because of the shame of having to confess it to one's "accountability partner". But the Bible commands us to perfect holiness in the fear of God - not in the fear of man (2 Cor.7:1). We are accountable to God - " He is the only One with Whom we have to do" (Heb.4:13).

We must confess our sins only to the Lord. The command in James 5:16 " Confess your sins to one another" has often been taken out of context. In its context, it is clear that it is referring to a sick believer who is being prayed for by the elders of his church. Since sickness at times is caused by sin (as we see in John 5:14), the sick person is told there to confess his sins (which may be the cause of his sickness) "so that he can be healed". That is NOT teaching believers to confess their sins to other believers. It is very dangerous when any verse is taken out of its context. A verse taken out of context often becomes a pretext for false teaching. So be careful that you study all verses in their immediate context and compare them with other verses on the same subject in the Bible.

The only sin that we must confess to a human being is the sin that we committed against him - for example, if we have cheated him or hurt him in any way, etc., (Matt.5:23,24). Remember this always.

We should never talk about our past sins in detail, to anyone, because that glorifies Satan (who made us commit those sins) and also pollutes the minds of those who hear our confessions. We glorify God now by declaring that we are cleansed and justified ( just as if I'd never sinned ) by Christ's blood. You must remember this all your life. We must of course, always acknowledge that we are sinners saved by God's grace. But we must never confess the details of our sins to anyone but God. This is the new covenant way.

Our Testimony Must Glorify God Alone

All believers when they give their testimony should always glorify God for the work He has done in them (the positive part), and never glorify Satan by mentioning details of what all he made them do in their unconverted past. It is enough if we say that we were sinners, backsliders or rebellious etc.

I have been personally encouraged to see that Peter spoke about the mount of transfiguration experience in his letters and not about his denying the Lord (2 Pet.1:17,18). Likewise, when Paul gives his testimony to the Jews (Acts 22) and to Agrippa (Acts 26), he speaks in great detail about his encounter with the Lord and only a little bit about his persecuting the Christians. Confessing specific sins I see is a Roman Catholic and heathen idea, which unfortunately some Protestant writers are also encouraging nowadays. This has " the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement, but actually is of no value " (Col.2:23). Self-abasement is not humility - and it is not wisdom either. Wisdom is our greatest need.

Great Passion to Please The Lord

We need to keep our devotion to Christ fresh and fervent. I want to urge all of you to keep your love for Christ - with all your heart, soul, strength and mind - fervent at all times. That is what will take away from you the love of other forbidden things. That is the force that will drive out other loves - the expulsive power of this new affection.

The Bible says, " Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor.10:31). Remember that verse when you are tempted to drink something like alcohol that can harm your body (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit). " All things may be lawful, but don't be mastered by anything" (1 Cor.6:12, 13).

My greatest joy is that all of you are walking with the Lord. I don't care how many academic degrees you get, or what salaries you earn or even where you live. If I can only know that your greatest passion in life is to please the Lord Who gave His life for you, then I can always walk with my head held high - and also die in peace when the Lord calls me home. The only life worth living is one lived 100% for God - but earning your own living, so that you are not financially dependent on anyone. May you live like that always.

Outline for The Book Of Romans

Here is an outline of the book of "Romans" that could be titled "FREEDOM IN CHRIST":

(1) Freedom from condemnation and guilt (chaps. 1 to 5)

(2) Freedom from sin's power (chap.6)

(3) Freedom from legalistic righteousness (chap.7)

(4) Freedom in the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:1-14)

(5) Freedom from fear (Rom.8:15-39)

(6) Freedom from boasting (Rom.9 to 11)

(7) Freedom from worldliness (Rom.12:1, 2)

(8) Freedom from individualism (Rom.12:3-21)

(9) Freedom from exclusivism (Rom.14, 15)

Study Romans like this. It is a wonderful book.

Things That Jesus Hated Most

Here are five things that Jesus hated the most:

1. Hypocrisy (includes dishonesty, lying etc.)

2. Pride

3. Selfishness (includes lack of concern for others, despising others etc.)

4. Hatred (includes anger, jealousy, bitterness etc.)

5. Unbelief

These sins don't figure in the 10 commandments - because the Law dealt only with the fruit of sin, whereas grace deals with the root of sin. The Law used a pair of scissors to cut off the bad fruit. But grace uses an axe and lays it to the root of the tree.

Jealousy is the opposite of pride. Both pride and jealousy come through comparing ourselves with others. Jealousy leads to anger which leads to hard words which may lead to murder (as with Cain). No jealous man will ever enter the kingdom of God. We must deal with it before we leave this earth.

Chapter 56
Chapter 56

The Lord is our Defence

Let me share something with you now on submitting to authority at home and in the church: Think of how the sun keeps the planets on an invisible leash (of gravity) while at the same time giving the planets freedom to fly around at such tremendous speed, without inhibiting them in any way. But because of that leash the planets do not go flying off into space and colliding with one another and destroying themselves and others. So also children in a home can be given freedom to fly around but must be held by an invisible leash by the father. This is for their protection even though they are often too immature to understand it. The same principle applies in the church family too.

Mom and I are thankful that we have had the privilege of spending our lives leading people to righteousness and making things physically good for them too - especially for the poor people who have come to Christ in the villages of India. In 1975, I decided to quit being an international conference-speaker in the big cities around the world (as I had been from 1971 to 1975) and to go to the poor people in India - especially in the villages where the big preachers hardly ever go. As we have sought the good of these poor people, God has rewarded us by blessing the four of you, our sons, in so many ways. He has been amazingly good to you in the past and He will be so in the future too - for God is no man's debtor.

There is still some opposition to our work from other Christians - again out of jealousy. It is beginning to be well-known now, that the Lord is blessing our work. There are also many open doors for my ministry everywhere. So Satan is furious with us - which is a good sign! I just ignore all this and press on to accomplish what the Lord has called me to do for Him.

I have some advice for you as to what to do when anyone criticizes you concerning any matter. Say nothing in your own defence. Let the Lord Himself defend you according to Isaiah 54:17: " 'No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment will be condemned. Their vindication is from Me,' declares the Lord". It is pointless trying to clarify matters with most people. God is Almighty and His truth is like a fire that needs no defence from puny people like us.

Love and Wisdom

Here is one of my proverbs: " A wise man will learn from the mistakes of others. An ordinary man will learn from his own mistakes. But a fool will not learn even from his own mistakes."

As a father, I want to learn from the mistakes that I have seen in other fathers.

So I ask myself what sort of example I have set for you boys - which you will follow. I hope it is this: To seek God's kingdom first and to endure in wise love toward all people, until the end of your lives .

Wisdom means keeping a good distance from troublesome people - and wisdom must govern your love. Your petrol (gas) tank (your heart) must be full of love, but wisdom must be in the driver's seat. Otherwise human love can do many foolish things. Your love must " abound in discernment (wisdom)" (Phil.1:9). You must never hate anyone or be rude to anyone. Greet those who don't greet you. Speak respectfully to all men at all times (as it says in 1 Peter 2:17). Be good to those who do evil to you.

When the Pharisees called Jesus "Beelzebub", He forgave them (Matt.12;24,32). When they dragged Him to court and accused Him falsely there, He never threatened them, but committed His cause to His Father (1 Pet.2:23). We must follow in Jesus' steps.

So if some Pharisee accuses you (or even takes you to court one day), remember what Jesus said: " You will be hated by all....they will drag you to court .....but be wise as serpents and harmless as doves........you will be given words to speak then (so you don't have to be silent there!) ....Don't fear people, for everything covered up will be revealed.... but he who endures (in love to everyone) until the end will be saved......The time will even come when those who kill you will think that they are serving God " (Matt.10:16-30; Matt.24:9-13; John 16:2).

So, always:

(1) Seek God's kingdom and his righteousness first. and

(2) Always be rooted and grounded in a wise love toward others.

Every group in Christendom holds up their Bibles and says, "We are right. God is with us." Who among them is right? I got a clear answer from the Lord: "God is with those who always speak the truth (even if it goes against them) and who always remain in a wise love towards others (that is, those who never do or wish any harm to others)."

May you all spend your lives seeking the kingdom of God first always. That means for you, right now, to do well in your studies (or work) and to show that Christians do well in all fields, in uprightness of life and with unselfish love to others. We are praying that for you constantly.

God is Able

" God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you always having all sufficiency in all things will have abundance for every good deed " (2 Cor.9:8).

We often stress what we should do. But this verse begins with "God is able....." This should be our major emphasis - what God can do for us and in us. We must be balanced.

Many who joined CFC had been "driving a car" that had gone far off the road to the left (in worldliness). They realized that when they joined CFC, and turned their steering wheel to the right (towards holiness) to come back to the road. But after coming to the road, many did not hold the wheel in the "centre" position to go straight on the road. They kept steering to the right and crossed the road and went far off to the right (in legalism). So now they need to turn left and come back to the main road - and then stay steady.

We must all think much about God having accepted us and God being able to make all grace available to us to accomplish all His will .

Remember too that God has a solution for every problem. If you believe that and seek Him for that solution and for grace to overcome, then your future will be glorious.

Fear

One of Satan's chief weapons is "fear". He uses it constantly. When believers try to frighten others or threaten others, they are (albeit unconsciously) in fellowship with Satan, because they are using a weapon from Satan's armoury. "God does not give us the spirit of fear" (2Tim.1:7). Fear is always a weapon of Satan. So we should not be afraid of the threats and intimidatory tactics that men use against us. Such men are all agents of Satan, even if they call themselves "believers". This is a lesson for us to learn for our whole life.

We should not even preach in such a way as to "frighten" people. There is a difference between warning people about hell and trying to frighten them. Jesus never tried to frighten anyone. We also must never be intimidated by preachers who try to bring us under guilt and condemnation by quoting various verses. Preachers threaten believers with God's judgment if they leave their church or if they don't pay their tithes to them, etc. These are all Satan's tactics.

It is important to be "quick of scent in the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:3 literal rendering). Like a police-dog can pick up the scent of a criminal, even at a junction of many roads, the Holy Spirit wants to make us so sensitive as to what pleases the Lord, that at any junction, where we hear many voices, we will know which is the path that glorifies God. May you all become quick of scent in this area. You are living in an evil land with sin and corruption all around. Keep yourselves pure.

Prayer - A Two-Way Communication

The Lord wants us to fellowship with Him just like a husband deeply in love with his wife, wants to communicate with her. He says, " My dove...let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet...." (Song of Sol.2:14).

This is why He wants us to pray. Prayer is a two-way matter - listening and talking, as in a telephone. You would certainly spend more time listening, if the person at the other end of the phone was far more godly than you. Even so, it is more important for you to listen to what God has to say to you, than for you to tell Him your needs. He knows your needs in any case! So your heart's ears must be open all the time - when driving the car, when working in the office, when things go wrong and when unexpected things happen.

But we must still tell God what we want, because He is a Father Who loves to hear His children asking for things.

Can we ask God for material things? Certainly. In fact, Jesus taught us to ask for "our daily bread..." even before asking for " forgiveness for our sins..." and "deliverance from evil ...". That doesn't sound spiritual to some people. But Jesus is realistic. He knows what all is needed for you to get your daily bread. In college-days, He knows that you need to get good grades in order to get a job, so that you can earn your daily bread, Once you start working, he knows that you have to be healthy and that your car needs to be in good shape as well, for you to go to work, so that you can earn your daily bread. So there are many material things that you can ask for, that are necessities for life on earth - things related to " Give us this day our daily bread..."??

And don't forget that Jesus used the word " us " and " our " in this prayer - give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, deliver us from evil. So we must pray not just for ourselves, but also for our fellow-believers who are in need.

Chapter 57
Chapter 57

Satan is a Defeated Foe

Here is an important truth that you must always keep in mind: All quotations from the Old Testament must be checked to see if there is some New Testament truth that overrides it. For example, slaying lambs has been overridden by the Lamb of God already slain for us. In the same way, we must remember that Daniel prayed at a time when Satan and his hosts had not yet been defeated on Calvary . That is why there was a conflict then with Satan (in the heavenlies) for three weeks (Dan.10:12,13). But we are now living on this side of the cross, where Satan has been defeated. So we don't have to struggle with him for three weeks now. We stand on Christ's victory. This is a truth that very few are teaching.

We read clearly in Col.2:14, 15 and Heb.2:14 that Satan was defeated (not destroyed but disarmed) on the cross. So today, we first submit (give ourselves) to God totally and then stand on the victory of Christ and resist Satan in Jesus' Name. And Satan will flee from us at once (James 4:7). He will flee from us at the speed of lightning, which is 186,000 miles (or 300,000 kilometres) per second - because Jesus said that He saw " Satan falling from heaven like lightning" (Luke 10:18). (This, by the way, is a good question to ask in a Bible quiz on James 4:7: "At what speed does Satan flee from us when we resist him?")

But if your lives are not cleansed in Christ's blood constantly by regular confession of sin (as and when you are pricked in your conscience), then you won't have power over Satan. So keep your conscience clean by confessing your sins to the Lord.

God is a loving Father. You must always find your security in Him. The best earthly father is but a faint replica of God. So you can imagine how much God loves you. You must be secure in His love always and love Him in return deeply. You must never do anything that displeases Him. And when you fall (as will happen now and then), repent immediately and come back to Him in sorrow, and keep your heart clean through Jesus' blood at all times.

Many charismatic preachers major in their preaching on faith for material things and healing and on casting out demons, and then pressure people to give them their money. Some other preachers major on psychological methods of comforting Christians, rather than getting them to have faith in God's promises. So be careful to avoid the false teachings about "inner healing", "the power of positive thinking", and " generational curses", etc., which are widely prevalent these days. It is best to stick to the language of the New Testament in spiritual matters. Study God's Word and then you won't be deceived.

The Limitations of Human Reasoning

To keep you abreast of things happening with us here in India: The "heresy" charges that have been thrown at us since 1975 (when CFC was born) continue to be heard even now, but not so frequently. All of God's prophets were called "heretics" during the last 2000 years - Jesus Himself to begin with; and then Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley and many others (See Matt.5:11,12). They were all called heretics in their lifetime but recognized as prophets after they died! So we are in good company!! Life however continues in triumph in Christ - and there is never a dull moment! As I have often said, "The godly man's life is exciting"! (Prov.14:14 - Living). Praise the Lord!

" Some people said that Jesus was a good man. Others said that He was leading people astray " (John 7:12). The same controversy continues even today in relation to men of God. Paul said to Felix " I admit to you, that according to what they call heresy, I serve God...... believing everything that is in accordance with the Scriptures " (Acts 24:14). We say the same thing. We are bold to preach all that the Bible teaches. But we are also careful not to teach anything that the Bible does not teach clearly.

For example: The dispute in relation to the sovereignty of God and the free will of man has been going on for 20 centuries - but especially in the last 4 centuries between the Calvinists and the Arminians. This is because the human mind cannot resolve this apparent paradox. Some teach that it is God Who holds on to the believer permanently such that he can never fall away (like the mother-cat holds its kittens in its mouth). Others say that it is the believer who must hold on to God (like the baby-monkey that clings on to its mother). The fact is that these two truths are not contradictory but complementary. They appear contradictory only because we think according to human reason. We are eternally secure in God. But we don't want to do anything that will displease God. We don't fear that God will hurt us (for He never will, since we are eternally His children), but we do fear that we might hurt God! No-one can pluck us out of God's hand. But we can jump out ourselves. If that were not possible, then we would have to conclude that we become robots as soon as we are converted!!

This limitation of our reason is also seen in the argument as to whether Jesus could have sinned or not. Here is what I say:

Could Jesus have sinned? As God, certainly not. But as a Man, certainly, yes.

This is called " the great mystery of godliness - that Christ came in the flesh " (1 Tim.3:16).

As God, he could not even have been tempted (God cannot be tempted - Jas.1:13). But Jesus was tempted (Matt.4:1-10) - and He was tempted exactly as we are, in all points (Heb.4:15). So, could He have sinned as a Man? Yes. Otherwise, He was not tempted like us - for we can certainly sin when we are tempted. His victory is actually even greater when we see that He could have sinned, but yet never sinned in thought or word or deed or attitude or motive or in any other way for a period of 33½ years, even though He was surrounded by evil men, demons and temptations of every sort. We know how difficult it is for us to keep ourselves pure even for a single day. Jesus lived in total purity for 33½ years!! What a mighty, consistent victory that was - far greater than if He had holiness handed to Him on a platter, because He was God.

Did Jesus then give up His Deity, when He came to earth? No. Certainly not! He accepted worship from many people and He forgave people their sins. He could do these only as God. But He did not use His resources as God in any way for Himself, when He was on earth. He lived as a Man with only the resources that we have. That is why He is an Example and a Forerunner for us, as a Man. And that is why He can say to us "Deny yourself daily and follow Me (= follow My example every day)" (Luke 9:23). He denied Himself daily for 33½ years.

A dog cannot fully understand a man. Much less can a man fully understand God. It is wise therefore for us to humble ourselves and to acknowledge that the small cup of our human intellect cannot fully contain the ocean of God's wisdom.

It is enough for us to know that we can look at Jesus as our Example and follow Him in daily life - and thus " overcome even as Jesus overcame" whenever we are tempted (Rev.3:21). Praise the Lord! Those who attempt to reason this out with their puny minds will fall into a pit of confusion that they dig for themselves. But those who are seeking to live a godly life will rejoice in this truth - for even if they cannot explain it, they can experience the reality of an overcoming life.

Enduring in Divine Love

We are living in days of great deception and in the times of which Jesus warned us that people would grow cold in love and betray one another (brother against brother). So we must not only endure in love to all, but also be wise to avoid people who are perpetually bent on strife and controversy.

As Christians, we will never do evil to anyone and we will never fight with human beings. But we will continue to expose wrong doctrines.

We must also " open our mouth for the rights of all the unfortunate and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy " (Prov.31:8, 9). David prayed that God would cause confusion in the camp of rebellious Absalom through Ahithophel's counsel (2 Sam.15:31) and God answered that prayer (2 Sam.17:23). Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive those who hurt Him. But He ruthlessly condemned those who hurt others (see his condemnation of the Pharisees in Matt.23).

And now a word about the parable of the wise virgins:

Once we have heard one interpretation of a parable, it is easy for our minds to be so fixed on that interpretation, that the Lord can never give us another interpretation of it. Some time ago, I sought the Lord to break out of this fixation to understand the parable in its context - which is always the best way to interpret any parable:

In Matthew 24:12, Jesus said that the love of many would die out in the last days, but those who endured to the end (without their love dying out) would be saved (or, enter in to God's house) (Matt.24:13). Then He spoke the parable of the virgins - five whose lamps died out and five who endured until the end and entered into the house (Matt.25). So one meaning of the oil he spoke of must be referring to Divine love given to us by the Holy Spirit. So we have to endure until the end in Divine love if we are to enter God's house when the Bridegroom comes. This is what it means to have " an extra flask of oil" that will keep our lamps burning until the end.

Jesus said, "They hated Me without a cause" (John 15:25) But in return, He loved them without any cause. Let us follow His example and love until the end. Otherwise "dying to self" can become an empty doctrine - as it has become for many who preach about it. I find that many "believers" who talk about walking the way of the cross, are not only lacking in love, but lacking in plain human decency and courtesy as well. They glory in their so-called "pure doctrine", but their life stinks. If our doctrine is truly pure, then the fragrance of the love of Christ will radiate from our lives.

The 19th century Quaker missionary, Stephen Grellet once said, " I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it - for I shall not pass this way again ." Let me encourage you to follow that advice.

Our Reactions Indicate Our Spiritual Level

The Bible says that " the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, but constantly throw up mud and dirt " (because there is an endless amount of mud and dirt at the bottom - Isa.57:20). And one can never say when such a sea will start tossing up all that dirt again. Such people are totally unpredictable. The sea is affected by the seasonal forces of nature, such as the moon - and so also are such men. They get angry and throw out their diatribes and then remain quiet for a while. Then all of a sudden, they toss up another pile of dirt!

Proverbs 26:4 says, " Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you also be like him ". But there are some fools whom we must answer, as the next verse says. But we must discern which type of fool each person is. Those who are bitter and angry fall in Category 1 and must never be answered. That is one guideline I go by. Just as we ignore dogs that bark along the roadside and don't go anywhere near them, we should avoid such human beings too. Let them bark to their heart's content. The fools we should give an answer to however (Prov.26:5), are the ignorant, sincere fools who are eager to know the truth.

While our actions are an important indicator of our spiritual state, it is more by our reactions to the actions of others that we discover where we stand spiritually. I evaluate myself by my reaction to the many criticisms against me. (I never reply to them). The reaction of Jesus to the opposition He faced in His lifetime is the example we follow.

As we grow older, every year, we become wiser in our speech and in the way we write our letters - but growth in wisdom is something that will keep on taking place in us throughout our lives, if we walk in the light. So at any given time, we can do things only according to the wisdom we have at that moment.

Chapter 58
Chapter 58

Maturity and Stability Take Time

I praise God for pressures - because we get to know the Lord better in such situations and thus are equipped to face life. It is not that we never fall or fail. But it takes time and maturity to come to a stable Christian life.

I gave my life to the Lord when I was 19½. But I fell and got up numerous times thereafter. Things became relatively easier 16 years later, when I began to learn how to live the Spirit-filled life and to rest in God.

Miles Stanford writes in his book, Principles of Spiritual Growth:
" Consider some familiar names of believers whom God brought to maturity and used for His glory - such as D.L.Moody, Jonathan Goforth, George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Charles Trumbull, F.B.Meyer, Andrew Murray, Frances Havergal, Madam Guyon, John Hyde, Robert McCheyne, Amy Carmichael and Evans Hopkins. The average for these was 15 years after they entered their life work before they began to know the Lord Jesus as their Life and ceased trying to work for Him and began allowing Him to be their All in all and to do His work through them . "

So be encouraged. Growth and stability take time in the Christian life.

I have seen that every trial is a test of whether I can stay in love when the pressure increases. With God's grace enabling me, I plan to endure until the end. Every test we pass will result in our being promoted to a higher class! Jesus was tested in love until they killed Him. He died loving them until the end. This is the new and living way that He has opened for us to walk in. By God's grace we can live like that. The devil says, "Impossible". But we say, "Possible by God's grace". Don't ever confess the Devil's lie. We can overcome and remain in love until the end.

As I said earlier, I failed the Lord numerous times. But God has been merciful to me and has now given me a ministry to failing men and women.

So don't let Satan condemn you because you haven't yet " entered into God's rest"! You will enter in one day.

Discipline is not something that comes overnight. For some people it comes naturally. For others it is more difficult. Actually you have far more discipline than you think. Otherwise you all would be unemployed drop-outs from school today, like many others in the world today. But seek to be a more disciplined Christian.

Make the following confessions frequently, because they are always true, irrespective of whether you believe them or not, whether you are disciplined or not, and whether you have succeeded or failed:

" God rules the world from his throne...
Jesus died for all my sins and has forgiven all of them....

Satan was defeated on the cross....

Jesus is coming back for me....

This world is not my permanent home....

God will crush Satan under my feet" (Rom.16:20).

Gratitude for Mom

I am so glad that all of you have learnt to appreciate Mom while she is still alive - unlike some children who sing their mother's praises only at her funeral. None of you will ever know the extent to which Mom has suffered and denied herself and given up everything - including her career - for the sake of the four of you. I have seen a little bit of her sacrifice. But even I do not know the full extent of all that she has sacrificed and suffered in secret, just because she married me, a servant of the Lord. But she did everything for the Lord's sake and so she will have her reward one day, for all that she sacrificed and suffered.

You are what you are today in a large measure due to her:

- spiritually, because she has constantly prayed for you.

- intellectually, because she persisted in making you all study, and even devised ways and means to help you study every subject.

- physically, because she gave you the best of food and medical care that we could afford.

I am deeply grateful to God for Mom. I have learnt to appreciate her more and more.

Exhortations for a Godly Life

Let me give you a few practical exhortations:

(1) First of all: Love the LIGHT and hate all hypocrisy and acting. You can fool all people to a great extent, about your spiritual state, but you can't fool God. May the Lord enable you always to see yourself as God sees you and not as men see you.

(2) Secondly: Avoid all physical contact with girls. Shake their hands and stop there. Don't ever go out alone with any girl - especially in the late evenings. And don't let any girl get any " ideas" (by your words) if you are not seriously considering her as a prospective wife. That is not fair to her. If all of you live at least by the Old Testament standard of moral purity - keeping a respectable distance from girls - and "fleeing from youthful lusts" as Paul told the 45-year-old, wholehearted Timothy to do - that itself would be great. But I would urge you to press on to the new-covenant standard and to fight the battle faithfully in the "lusting-with-the-eyes" area. But this is a lifelong battle and a very tough one for every man who is not effeminate (and none of you are effeminate!). May the Lord give you grace in these your unmarried days to fight this battle wholeheartedly. Those who recognize this as a tough battle, acknowledge their failures, mourn over them and seek for God's power, will definitely get the victory.

Be careful of sympathizing with suffering girls. I have seen what has happened to young men who have sought to help "damsels in distress ". Some have been deceived by damsels who "pretended" to be in distress. An unwise human sympathy in such cases is always the first step downwards. Some girls have even given boys something to eat or drink in order to "capture" them. A child of God who is walking in the light and cleansed in Jesus' blood, can never be affected by such 'love-potions'; but they can affect anyone who is walking in darkness. So the safest course is to walk in the light always. Others capture men with `love-charms' that they give the men to wear on their bodies.

Some men visit a girl and then find themselves alone in a room or a house with her - and they don't run away like Joseph did. The girl then becomes pregnant and then she has a hold on the man forever. The girls are thrilled when they capture men like this. But such men are foolish - and they ruin their whole lives. I want to warn all of you: Be careful. If you want to help others, help only needy men, not needy women (unless they are over 70 years old!).

(3) Thirdly: Be poor in spirit. Have a sense of your own spiritual need always - and live in a constant judgment of yourself. Brokenness is the secret of true spirituality. We must live with a constant sense of our own inability to live an overcoming life and a constant desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

(4) Fourthly: Spend 10 minutes meditating on the Word of God daily. Let that be part of your daily routine - any time of the day. Get a devotional commentary and study the Word with it. Or use my Bible-study tapes for this purpose. Read some verses from the book of Proverbs daily. Disciplined study of the Word saved me from many a calamity in my younger days.

(5) Fifthly: Honour the Lord everywhere. One example: If you host a party, you should honour God by praying and sharing a brief word from Scripture. Don't be apologetic when praying or sharing the Word on such occasions. Unfortunately, most believers are ashamed to acknowledge the Lord at a party that they host, because they don't want to offend the unbelievers present. But unbelievers never seek to please believers at their parties! The children of Satan are bolder than the children of God!

Music and Full-Time Ministry

Music, like sport, is primarily meant to be a form of relaxation and an extra-curricular activity in our lives. I don't believe anyone should make music the main thing in his life. We don't read of anyone in the New Testament having an exclusive ministry of music.

Christian music as a full-time ministry is popular in the West because those with a gift of music have seen that secular musicians make a lot of money. And the abundance of wealth among Christians there enables Christian musicians also to make a lot of money through a music ministry. This practice is unfortunately coming up in India as well now. But Jesus said that no-one can serve God and money.

A Christian should never seek for financial profit through his preaching or musical ability. We should not be dependent on gifts from others for our livelihood. Christian ministry must be a voluntary service that we render to the Lord first of all and then to His people. We must offer our ministry freely to all people (especially to the poor who cannot pay) - and support ourselves by other means. This is what I have done ever since CFC started, and that is why I have been able to visit the poor believers in the villages in India who are really needy. Paid preachers and musicians can serve only the rich. That was not how Jesus ministered.

It is a heathen concept that sacrificing earthly comforts (like a sadhu) means one is serving God. Serving God full-time requires a call from God, because such people are living off money given for God's work (whether the amount is little or much). No-one can choose such a calling on his own, because no-one has the right to receive money given by God's people for God's work, who has not been specifically called by God to be His servant. It would amount to stealing God's money - and there is a lot of that going on all over the world today. No-one can be paid by the army if he has not first been selected to serve in the army.

Further, there are so many pressures in Christian ministry that it is impossible to survive without compromising, unless one has a clear call from God. In my own case, if I had not known all along that God had called me, I would have "gone under" long ago, either through "begging for money through prayer-letters" (during years of financial hardship, especially when my family's needs increased), or through compromise in my message (when I faced rejection from all of Christendom in India because of my message), or through discouragement (when I faced other forms of opposition). But God has preserved me through all these circumstances - and that too, not just by "keeping my head above water" (bare survival), but by "making me walk on water" (in triumph). I give all the glory to God for that, because better men than me have sunk in the quagmire. So although I firmly believe that full-time Christian work is the greatest work anyone can ever do in this world, no-one can enter it and be a success in it, in God's eyes, without a clear call from God. There is ample evidence in Christendom around us to prove this.

Hebrews 5:4, 5 (Living) says, " No-one can enter (God's service) just because he wants to. He has to be called by God for this work in the same way that God chose Aaron. Christ Himself did not choose this honour. No, He was called by God ".

Since that is so, how can we ever enter into God's work without His calling us.

Chapter 59
Chapter 59

The Three-Fold Hedge

We have a right to many things. But Jesus said that because His kingdom was not of this world, His servants would not fight for their rights.

Godly men give up their rights instead of getting into a fight. Abraham refused to fight with Lot and gave up his rights (Gen.13). Lot immediately grabbed Sodom for himself and lost it all. Abraham however allowed God to choose for him - and so his descendants possessed the whole land of Canaan. Isaac also refused to fight with the herdsmen of Gerar and allowed them to take the wells he had dug. So God gave him a better place - and people around him began to see that God was with him (Gen.26:17-30).

One day, we will see that the meek (the gentle) will inherit the whole earth (Matt.5:5).

Some people are paranoid about Satan and seem to see him everywhere. That is foolish. I know that Satan can bring bondage, confusion, impurity and strife. But I also know that he cannot stand when resisted in the Name of Jesus. He will literally flee. But he will not flee, if we are ignorant of his schemes, or if we don't resist him.

Satan has never succeeded thus far against our family - and he won't succeed in the future either. Because God has placed a three-fold hedge around (1) me, (2) my family-members and (3) my property and finances (as we read in Job 1:10). In every single instance where Satan has attacked us, so far, God has turned the tables on him and frustrated his plans. As long as we live, we will continue to resist Satan - and God will continue to frustrate Satan's plans again and again. One day when the Lord comes, you will see the battles that we fought for all of you (Eph.6:12), that you may be unaware of today (1 Cor.4:5). Then you will realize how much you were protected and how many times God delivered you, in answer to our prayers.

Our prayer for all of you is that you will become wholehearted disciples of the Lord Jesus, overcome Satan and live in God's perfect plan for your lives. It doesn't matter to me where you live. The best place is always the centre of God's will.

I have no doubt that all of you went to the right college, in God's will, because I prayed specifically for each of you before you joined those colleges. I see that each of you have become mature men after leaving home. And the Lord has preserved you all these years. You have been preserved from accidents miraculously. You have also been delivered and protected from terrible evils that you are quite unaware of. In addition, you have also been active in your churches, serving the Lord and have been a blessing to many. We are proud of you. The believers in CFC thank God for you - and we do too.

Show your gratitude to Jesus for what He did for you on Calvary - by living a life of sacrifice, self-denial and service.

Fighting a Constant Battle

I am delighted to see that you all are not spiritual babes any more, but pressing on to maturity. I always wanted you to grow up to become my brothers in Christ - which is what we shall be for all eternity. All the discussions we have had together have been mature and healthy and have proved the fact that even when we disagree (on unimportant matters), we still love one another and stand by each other. This really shows me that you have become mature! Praise the Lord!

Let me encourage all of you to fight the battle in the sexual area, especially in your thoughts and with your eyes (movies and magazines). Never give up battling in this area, because you will have this battle until you are at least 60 years old, if not longer. David sinned with Bathsheba when he was 52. And his fall began when he was careless with his eyes. This battle was just as strong for me in my youth, as it is now for you. But externally, the environment I lived in was not as explosive as the one you are now living in. So your battle will be more difficult. But the Lord will therefore give you more grace to overcome this - until the end. If you fall, get up and continue fighting. Even if you are not a daily overcomer, be a survivor, at any cost. Then one day, you will become an overcomer and you will sail in triumph into heaven.

Psalm 112 is beautifully paraphrased in the Living Bible as follows :

All who fear God and trust in him are blessed beyond expression. Happy is the man who delights in doing his commands. His children shall be honoured everywhere, for good men's sons have a special heritage. He himself shall be wealthy, and his good deeds will never be forgotten. When darkness overtakes him, light will come bursting in. Such a man is kind and merciful. All goes well for the generous man who conducts his business fairly. Such a man will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God's constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it . He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that the Lord will take care of him. That is why he is not afraid but can calmly face his foes. He gives generously to those in need. His deeds will never be forgotten. He shall have influence and honour. Evil-minded men will be infuriated when they see all this. They will gnash their teeth in anger and slink away, their hopes thwarted.

Managing Personal Finances

Financial freedom is something that makes it easier for us to go wherever the Lord wants us to go, without being dependent on anyone and also seems to fit in with the teaching in Proverbs 6 about learning from the ant to save for the future, and with Jesus' parable of the man who invested his talents and produced ten times more (1000% increase) and the master's suggestion that the second best method was to put the money into the bank and get interest (Lk.19:16, 23).

Whenever you decide to give some money for the work of the Lord, don't give it to rich pastors and churches and organizations, but rather to the poor CFC churches in India's villages.

You must also get into the saving habit now itself. As a help to this, initially you should keep an account of all your major expenditure. Then at the end of each month, you will see where you have overspent and where you can cut down. My suggestion would be that you save at least 25% (or more) of your net income each year, after deducting tax, rent and car-payments. Thus you will have something to fall back on for emergencies - and also something to start your married life with, later on.

A little discipline now will pay rich dividends later on. You will not regret it in the long run. It will give you financial independence and thus greater freedom. This is God's will. " Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost", Jesus said, after feeding the 5000 (John 6:12). In other words, "Avoid all wastage". You have to learn to manage your finances before you get married. So make this a priority. Jesus spoke many parables about those who were faithful in managing money and about those who were unfaithful. This applies both spiritually and materially.

It is good to make it a habit to make all paymentswell before they are due, and also never to get into any type of debt - not even credit-card debt, where you have to pay a huge interest on payments that lag behind. It is best to use only debit cards. Use the credit-card only in emergencies. If you are not careful in this habit, it will get worse when you get married when you will have more expenses, and you will end up with serious problems one day. Please develop this as a way of life now itself. When you are using your credit card, you have to be careful, because you are spending what you do not see. Never get into credit-card debt. Pay your bills every month. Do that as religiously as you pay your car-insurance.

Put some amount of what you save each month into a fixed deposit, because " money that you don't see in your account, you will not spend". Jesus did not spend everything that He received, immediately. Otherwise there would have been no need for a treasurer and a money-bag. The money that Judas kept was a "savings account".

Speculating in the stock market is very risky, and so I would not recommend that. But long term investment in reputed companies is good. That is what I did many years ago - and I have supported our family all these years from that.

You must ensure that you pay all taxes that are due to the government, on time. But at the same time, find out all the provisions that arelegally available toavoid paying tax ( not evade taxes but legally avoid taxes). That will reduce your tax burden, so that you can maximise your savings. That is wisdom.

To balance out what I have said, let me add this: Remember that prosperity is not a proof of God's blessing or even an indication that you are in the centre of God's will. Jesus had no place to lay His head and Paul speaks of not having enough to eat at times and even not having enough warm clothes to keep himself warm (2 Cor.11:27). Yet no-one was more in God's perfect will than them.

It is often material loss that brings people closer to the Lord - just like cancer, snake-bites and other apparently evil things have drawn people to the Lord. So we must never measure our spiritual growth by how well we are doing financially.

Francis Bacon once said that " Prosperity was the blessing of the Old Testament, while adversity is the blessing of the New ."

Busy-ness - Satan's Evil Scheme

Here is something that I read recently on how people can become busy, busy, busy.

"Satan called a world-wide convention. In his opening address to his demons he said: 'We can't keep Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles. But we can do something else. We can keep them from having an intimate relationship with Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them will be broken. So let them go to church, let them have their fundamental doctrines, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't develop that intimate experience in Jesus Christ. This is what I want you demons to do. Distract them from getting hold of their Saviour.

His demons asked: 'How shall we do this?'

Satan said, 'Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life. Invent numerous schemes to occupy their minds. Tempt them to spend and spend and borrow and borrow. Convince the wives to go to work and the husbands to work 6 or 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can keep up their high-living lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, very soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.

Over stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear Jesus talk to them. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player with music whenever they drive, and to keep the TV or their video-tapes or their CDs playing constantly, in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays music constantly .

Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news, 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with bill boards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail: sweepstakes, mail order catalogues, and every kind of newsletter and promotion offering ' free' products, services, and false hopes.

Even in their recreation let them be excessive. Have them return from their family vacation exhausted and unprepared for the coming week. Don't let them go out for a walk in nature. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.

Allow them to witness for Christ. But crowd their lives with so many good causes that they have no time to seek for power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity - all for the good of their cause.'

And the demons went eagerly to their assignments, causing Christians everywhere to become busy, busy, busy and to rush here and there.

Has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge."

Chapter 60
Chapter 60

Phariseeism

Two types of believers are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:6:
(1) Those who are led by the Spirit.
(2) Those who are slaves of the letter.

Those led by the Spirit are those who have gone through many trials and testings and thus come to know God personally, and to know His mind and His ways. Thus they have discernment in spiritual matters.

Those who are slaves of the letter however are those who have only studied the Bible and understood the doctrine. They may be living upright lives, but because they live by the letter of the Word, and not the spirit, they tend to be Pharisaical in their attitude to others. It is such people who constitute the strength of all cults . They don't know God personally, but only the doctrine of their particular group. They study how their group's leaders behaved in different situations and try to imitate them when they themselves are in such situations. They accumulate a lot of data on the conduct of their leaders in order to imitate them and to become (as they imagine) "spiritual"!! But they never become spiritual. They just become greater Pharisees.

There are groups in Christendom that are not cults but are cultistic in nature. I have often warned you and others about such groups. And I will keep on doing so until our Lord returns - because there are going to be many more such groups in the last days.

The Opposition of Pharisees

God will allow you to face rebuke and hatred and " the contradiction of sinners" (Heb.12:3) - just as our church also has faced for many years. Jesus and Paul and all godly men in Christian history have faced this. So you are in good company. When you encounter it, you must be meek as Jesus was. Thus you will one day reach the goal of " Perfection" (total likeness to Christ).

Where believers don't live in a constant judgment of themselves, the result will always be a steep decline into Phariseeism of the worst order. When you see such a decline in some believers who you know started out well, then you should be thankful that the Lord's mercy has saved you from such self-righteousness and such "delusions of spirituality". You should take that as a solemn warning for yourself.

Many of these Pharisees are "busybodies in other people's matters" (1 Pet.4:15-KJV) and " self-appointed censors and reprovers of others" (James 3:1-Amplified). Thus God exposes them as a warning to everyone, not to follow in their steps.

Victory with Humility

How tragic it would be to live a whole life without light on Phariseeism - the worst of all sins! To get victory over lustful thoughts and anger and then to fall into self-righteousness and pride is like being pulled out of a 20-foot deep pit and then falling into a 2000-foot deep pit. Many are lying in those 2000-foot deep pits and preaching about victory over sin to others who are lying in 20-foot deep pits!

The most difficult part of the life of victory is to be humble about it and to acknowledge that it is the Lord alone Who keeps us from falling into sin. If you recognize this fact at all times, you will remain humble always.

When I went sailing in sailing-boats in my Naval days, I used to lower the keel of my boat, when the winds were strong. (The keel is a heavy metal plate that is lowered below the boat to lower its centre of gravity, to prevent the boat from toppling over in heavy winds.) A deep humility in our hearts (unseen by men) should be the keel that we should all have at all times. Sailing boats that don't lower the keel topple over easily if a sudden gust of wind (the slightest admiration or approval of men) hits them. But when we have this keel, we are safe even if strong storms hit us.

If we live constantly looking at Jesus and as a result judging ourselves constantly, we will not despise even the worst of sinners or backsliders - for we will be convinced (as the apostle Paul was) that we ourselves are " the foremost of sinners" (1 Tim.1:15). If God can convert a self-righteous Saul into the humble Paul, He can do the same with all of us who submit to Him (like Paul did) to be broken and humbled under His mighty hand.

Then we will have "the holiness which is no illusion" (Eph.4:24 - JB Philips paraphrase).

Soul-Power and Cultists

Cultist Christians may try to browbeat you into submission to them, with their soul-power. So you have to beware of them. One way by which they seek to have power over people is by making them confess their sins to them! They do not consider it sufficient that a prodigal son has settled matters with his heavenly Father. They cannot bear to see a prodigal son singing and leaping for joy, without joining their group. Their attitude is exactly like that of the 'elder brother' in Luke 15. They require that the prodigal must confess his sins to the elder brother also, to satisfy the elder brother's ego! Otherwise the prodigal must be kept on probation in the servant's quarters until he agrees to confess! This is the technique of every cult in the world. They get people to confess the failures of their unconverted life to them, so that the cult leaders can have a permanent hold on them, through the fear of blackmail. It is sad to see cultists using the methods used by the secret police in Communist countries! This is 100% demonic. Such 'elder-brothers' do not have the heart of the father (in Luke 15). Thank God that it is to our heavenly Father's house that we have to return, and not to some "elder brother's house"!

These cultists may also try to frighten you into submission to them by saying that " it always goes badly with those who oppose them or leave their group ". That is an age-old threat of all cult-groups.

Cultists will make those who disagree with them feel guilty and condemned, and make weak-minded believers helplessly dependent on them. They will tell everybody how wonderfully God is moving in their midst - so as to convince people that God is with them, and thus to draw unsteady believers into their fold. These are all evidences of the insecurity of such cultists. Make sure that you steer clear of all such cult-groups.

When the Lord is your Shepherd, goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (and not in the house of any Pharisaical cult) (Psa.23:6). So thank God for His tremendous goodness and mercy to you.

Cultists are Bullies

Cultists are invariably bullies. There is a passage in Isaiah 14:3-6 (Living) that is appropriate for them: " In that wonderful day when the Lord gives His people rest from sorrow and fear, from the slavery and chains (of cultists), you will jeer at the king of Babylon (Satan and his cultist-agents) and say, `You bully, you persecuted God's people with unceasing blows of rage and held them in your angry grip. You were unrestrained in tyranny. At last the Lord has crushed your wicked power' ".

God has His agents (the true spiritual fathers, who have partaken of Jesus' humility and gentleness Matt.11:29); and Satan has his agents (the Pharisees, who constantly seek to bully young believers).

We have to be careful of spirits that fake the work of the Holy Spirit. Don't be fooled by all the external goodness of cultists. There is Phariseeism at their core. And as with all cults, once you are caught in their spider-web, it will require a strong mind to break free.

One thing to note about most cults is that they all have some good people and good families among them - with some of them living a better life than that found even among evangelical believers. There are sincere people - who are misled - in every cult. But one thing common to all who are misled is that they place the word of man above the word of God. They do not quote Scripture exactly; and they do not compare Scripture with Scripture to arrive at a correct understanding of the truth. That is why they go astray. Undiscerning believers are often deceived by the presence of good people in these cults. One of the best ways to test a group is to check whether the main leaders and preachers of the group are self-righteous, or legalistic, or proud. Thus it becomes fairly easy to identify a cult. If you look only at the good people among them, you may even foolishly join a cult!

Cultism's Imbalanced Teaching

Most cults quote Luke 14:26 to those who come to them, saying that Jesus said: "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple".

But they will not quote the full verse. They will only quote the part about "hating father and mother" - in order to turn people away from their parents. If any of them use that technique on you, tell them that Jesus said in the same verse, that they should also hate their wife and children and the brothers and sisters in their group as well. None of them will ever do that. Thus you will expose their hypocrisy. True discipleship is to put Christ first - above parents, wife, children and fellow-believers in one's group as well.

This is just one example of how cults will quote only a part of a verse and mislead people to promote their own ends. Beware of such people and don't be deceived by them. Although you are young, you have received the balanced teaching of God's Word in the church at Bangalore through many years. Keep that always in mind.

Cultists Follow Men More Than Christ

Cultists have a great devotion to their leader and follow Him blindly. His teaching is more important to them than the Scriptures.

Our loyalty must never be to a group or to any man - but only to the Lord Himself and to the whole Body of Christ. Our fellowship with God's children must always be through Christ the Head and not through an attachment to a doctrine or a person.

Ezekiel 21:27 (Living Bible) states that "God will keep on overturning everything, until He comes Whose right it is to reign" . This is the overturning that God will do in a believer who does not accept the Lordship of Christ, but puts some human leader on an equal pedestal with the Son of God, or puts some created thing like money or a profession ahead of the Creator - for all this is equivalent to idolatry of created beings and things.

Coming into close contact with a cult can be like touching a live electric wire. One can be stuck to it for one's whole life, unless one is bold enough to stand against it and break free.

Cultists are Arrogant and Exclusive

Peter said in the house of Cornelius, " Now I know for certain that God does not show any partiality, but in every nation (and denomination), the one who fears God and does what is right is welcome to Him " (Acts 10:34, 35). If we see the truth in that statement, we will be saved from all conceit and Phariseeism.

In Jesus' time, the Jews thought that they alone were the ones whom God had chosen. Since then, in the last 2000 years, there have been many exclusive groups in Christendom who have also had the same conceited opinion about themselves. Such Pharisees have ruined themselves and their followers by their cultism and their exclusivism.

Beware of such cultists. Stay far away from them.

Read my article on 'The Marks Of Cultism' (in my book New Wine In New Wineskins).

Chapter 61
Chapter 61

Foundational Principles in Choosing a Life partner

When looking for a wife, you must ask these four fundamental questions first of all:

(1) Is the girl born-again? (1 Jn.3:10)

(2) Does she fear God? (Prov.31:30)

(3) Does she have that gentle (meek) and quiet spirit that God values most highly? (1 Pet.3:4).

(4) Does she have the same spiritual values that you have? (2 Cor.6:14)

Anyone who neglects these factors can find himself in serious problems in his marriage. He may find his wife dragging him in the way she wants to go, so that he cannot go the way the Lord wants him to go. Like Esau, such a believer would then have sold his spiritual birthright for a bowl of porridge.

God tests Christian young men today by allowing them to meet girls who are pretty and clever but who are not born again - or who claim to be born again, but are worldly. And God observes what each young man's reaction is going to be? A believer's entire future can be ruined if he is foolish or hasty in his decision at such a time. Many may imagine that they can convert or change their wives after marriage. But things don't work out that way. Even if some type of `conversion' does take place in the wife, in most cases, it turns out to be superficial.

What is even more dangerous is the professed `conversion' that a girl may make, when she sees that that is the only way she can get to marry you. Beware of that most of all. There must be clear evidence that a girl has put Jesus first in her life - and not just gone through "a form of conversion" for the sake of getting married to you. If you don't take this issue seriously, you are denying God's ownership of your life. I have come across cases where girls who professed to be converted in this superficial way, manifest their un-converted nature within a very short time after they are married.

That is why Scripture is totally uncompromising on this point, saying, " Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? " (2 Cor.6:14).

Some young brothers feel that with a certain amount of right Christian teaching, any girl will get converted or become wholehearted. That is totally wrong. They don't realize that choosing to follow Jesus is a decision involving the most radical change in one's life and outlook. It is not a question of slightly altering one's perspective or viewpoint. It is total allegiance to a new Master. Few are willing to choose this way of life.

Why am I mentioning all this to you now, when marriage is still a long way off for you? Only so that you can develop mature attitudes and be prepared to take the right decision, long before you come to the time when you have to make that choice. It is good to be established on sound Christian principles, well in advance.

Trusting the Lord for a Life-partner

God has a plan for your life, and especially in this, the most important decision of your life after new birth - marriage. And He alone can direct you in this matter, because of two factors :
(1) You cannot see the true condition of any girl's heart, no matter how much you know her externally;
(2) You cannot see what the future is going to be like.

Therefore your only hope is to lean heavily upon God.

You need a submissive woman to be your wife - one with a meek and quiet spirit. So beware of the proud, domineering, bossy type of girl. A pretty girl is not worth it, if the price you have to pay for her good looks is unending strife at home. Marital happiness is far more important than good looks. At the same time, I do believe that you must feel physically attracted towards the girl, and that she must look up to you and admire you .

We desire the best for you, and you know we won't put any pressure on you.

Here are three essentials that should be found in any girl that you consider:

(1) She must have a fervent devotion to the Lord. This needs no further comment.

(2) She must be willing to accept her husband as the head of the home. She must be able to look up to you and be willing to submit to you as her head, throughout your life. She must gladly accept you, from the outset, as the leader in the home. A girl like that is difficult to find in these days, especially among those who are highly educated. But God has His chosen girl somewhere for you.

(3) She must be willing to go the way of self-denial. Self-denial and dying to self every day is a major secret of a happy married life. As you observe a girl's actions, you will be able to see whether she is the self-denying type or not. It is by observing the little things that a girl does or does not do, that you can know whether she is self-indulgent or self-denying.

We pray constantly for you all concerning your marriage. So we know the Lord will preserve you from making a wrong choice. We believe the Lord will guide you all aright in this vital matter, whenever the time comes for each of you.

A sense of your own helplessness to find the right person will cast you upon the Lord - and this is vital for faith. " Those who hopefully wait upon the Lord will never be put to shame" (Isa.49:23) - because " eye has not seen nor ear heard neither has it entered man's mind the wonderful things (a wife) that God has prepared for those who wait for him " (Isa.64:4) - that is, for those who trust Him to guide them, because they recognize their utter helplessness. So don't get impatient or discouraged if you see younger men around you marrying in haste. God will give you the very best if you honour Him and wait for His time.

Here are two important bits of advice therefore:

(1) Don't lean on your own wisdom: " Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding " (Prov.3:5). God will guide those who humbly acknowledge their weakness.

(2) Don't be hasty. " Do you see a man hasty in his matters? There is more hope for a fool than for him " (Prov.29:20-KJV). Don't decide on the spur of the moment. I know you will be wise in this matter.

Surrender all your own preferences on the altar, and give up your own will to God. Say that you are willing to accept whoever He decides is best for you. Then He will guide you aright.

A Godly Life-partner

The girl you consider must not be the noisy, boisterous type, but one who has a meek and quiet spirit. She should not be one who is attracted to you because of your job, or your education, or your potential to earn money. A marriage founded on money will be a disaster. She must be one who chooses you because you love the Lord like she does. And you must choose her because she loves the Lord like you do. Her level of spirituality should be approximately the same as yours - not far above yours or far below yours. When you are both on about the same plane spiritually , each of you will respect the other as being more spiritual.

She must have a personal knowledge of the Lord, that has come through experience and not through hearsay. She must be a lover of God's Word. Her convictions must be her own, and not just those handed down from her parents, or by her church. It is good to have a heritage of a godly home; but that does not guarantee that a girl knows the Lord. Spirituality comes as a result of making godly choices in the rough and tumble of life, and through taking a stand for the Lord, even if it makes one unpopular.

She should be one who has taken water-baptism after her conversion. This will ensure that there are no conflicts on this issue, when children are born - that she will not want to get them christened. Even if she is not baptized in (filled with) the Holy Spirit, she must be open to the baptism (fullness) of the Spirit, and not prejudiced against it. To be against the extremes of Pentecostal-ism and charismatic-ism is all right - for God Himself is against such extremes. But she must not be against the genuine fullness of the Spirit that transformed the apostles on the day of Pentecost from timid, fearful men into flaming witnesses for Christ. And she must not be a legalistic, nit-picking, religious Pharisee.

Since you are educated, the girl you choose should be intellectually compatible. Such compatibility will help towards ease in conversation, which is a major part of married life.

She must be physically attractive in your eyes - and you must be physically attractive in her eyes. If she has had boy-friends in the past, she should have broken off from them completely, and be having no more contact with any of them. She must be the fun-loving type, and must have a sense of humour. By that I mean that she must be able to laugh - even at herself - even if she does not have the ability to make others laugh!

I would not insist that the girl's parents should be born-again. I have seen many God-fearing girls come from non-Christian homes. But whichever family the girl is from, she must have a great respect for family values. She must be 100% opposed to divorce as an option under any circumstances - even under the worst of circumstances. She must realize the importance of motherhood, and must value children and be willing to devote her whole life to bringing up her children. If she has a career, she must be one who places family above her career.

Following Our Example

You have seen an excellent example in your own Mom, who gave up everything - her career, her comforts, her health and her personal choices - in order to bring you all up in a godly way. She has loved you under all circumstances and denied herself and devoted herself to bringing you all up as godly young men.

Before I chose Mom to be my wife, I asked the Lord to give me some sign that she was truly devoted to Him. Then I saw that she had chosen (after graduating from India's top medical college, Christian Medical College, Vellore) to work among people afflicted with leprosy. Why would a young girl like her, choose such a career? That was enough to convince me. I have never once regretted my choice (even for a moment) since I married her on June 19, 1968. We are not a perfect married couple. But I can say this that we love one another deeply and respect each other highly. And in all my travels, I have never seen anyone else who would have been more suited for me; and I know I never will. My prayer for you is that you too will have a similar testimony concerning your wife, throughout your married life. That is why I am writing so much about this matter.

Ask the Lord to show you clearly, whether a particular girl is His choice for you or not. The very fact that you cast yourself upon the Lord acknowledging your helplessness, is the way you honour Him and acknowledge that He alone can guide you aright.

Remember always that you owe your very life to Him. You are not your own any more. You cannot live the rest of your life for yourself but only for the Lord and His perfect will.

All the warnings and advice I give will only be before your marriage. Once you are married, my acceptance of your wife will be total, unreserved and wholehearted. You can be sure of that. But I trust you will realize that we, your parents, have some years of experience and some wisdom to warn you beforehand of the inadequacy of all human methods in assessing a girl's true nature. You cannot afford to go by appearances, or even by spending much time together, in determining whether a girl is suitable to be your life-partner. Only God can show you the right person. So pray much before you decide.

The Unchangeable Principles Of God's Word

There is only one marriage in the Bible (after Adam's) in which we are told clearly how God led the man and woman together - Isaac's. The method God used there was the accepted one in the culture of that time. But God is sovereign and is well able to operate within the context of any culture. The method God used in Abraham's day in the 20th century BC may be different from the method God uses today, in the 20th century AD, in a different culture. The important thing is the leading of God, and not the method by which He leads you to a girl. So I am not concerned about the method. But I do pray that each of you will be certain that it is God Himself Who is leading you.

In the beginning, only God could provide a suitable helper for Adam. Even today, only God can provide the ideal helper for you.

Since God was the One who made woman, He is the One Who can tell us best about His `product'. The Manufacturer's opinion is certainly the best! And therefore, it is good to read Proverbs 31:10-31 and meditate on the type of wife whom God commends.

That portion of Scripture was written by King Lemuel's mother. We don't know who Lemuel was. But he certainly had a godly mother (Most books of the Bible were written by men. But this is one of the rare portions of Scripture that came through a woman, inspired by the Holy Spirit!!). This mother gave her son a lot of sound advice about the type of girl he should marry. From this we conclude that it is God's will that all parents should advise their sons about the type of girl they should marry!

The girl should be one who has a soft tongue (v.26) and rough hands - not vice-versa (Prov.31:13,15,17,19,22)! No-one is born with a soft tongue. It has to be acquired. And no-one is born hard-working. That too has to be learnt. The girl should be frugal and wise in financial matters (v.16,22,24). She should be generous and compassionate, especially towards the poor (v.20). She should be a home-lover (v.27). Above all, she should fear the Lord (v.30). Lemuel's mother concluded her advice saying, " Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn't last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised " (Prov.31:1, 30- Living).

I agree with all that Lemuel's mother was inspired by God to tell her son. Such a wife will do you good all the days of her life (Prov.31:12). I believe that God has reserved such a girl somewhere in the world, for each of you.

Don't ever consider a lazy girl or one obsessed with fashion as a wife, for such a woman will be a constant drain on your bank account, and will drive you to poverty. And don't consider a quarrelsome, nagging type, for she will be a constant drain on your emotional resources and drive you to despair.

Wisdom is to allow God's Word to guide you while making your choice.

Remember that a woman who reverences God will make a much better wife than one who is merely pretty or charming (Prov.31:30). Please believe what God says here and don't discover the truth of it by the painful route of experimenting and finding out for yourself. That will be disastrous. The Holy Spirit says that a pretty girl who does not hunger after God is like "a pig (her character) with a golden ring (her beauty ) in its nose" (Pro.11:22). Strong language - but true. So don't ever go after some golden-ringed pig!!

Please remember that a good marriage has three elements in it - Spiritual fellowship, intellectual communication and family values . So look for a girl:

(a) who has a passion for the Lord and who talks about spiritual matters (not just to impress you) and not one who just "goes to church regularly". You discover what is in a girl's heart by what she longs to speak about, because Jesus said that everyone speaks about that which fills their heart (Matt.12:34);

(b) who is intellectually compatible, because communication is a major part of family life; and

(c) who values family and motherhood.

In God's eyes, a girl is "spirit , soul and body" (1 Thess.5:23) - not body, soul and spirit. So in your evaluation of a girl, put spiritual values first, soul-values (intellectual etc.,) second, and body-values (physical) third - and then you won't make a mistake.

Please read Chapter Five of my book SEX, LOVE & MARRIAGE once again.

Human Considerations

There are many human factors also that must be considered when choosing a wife. After having observed many marriages over the past many decades, here is my considered opinion:

Before getting married, you should definitely get a job to support a family (as it says in Prov.24:27).

It is not good to wait too long, because the days are evil, and the Bible says that to avoid fornication, you should get married (1 Cor.7:2). `Burning' with desire can very easily lead to sin.

A pleasant conversationalist will save you from a boring marriage.

Equality in socio-economic status must be considered, ­since that will make adjustment to each other much easier in your home-life.

You should never marry anyone out of sympathy or pity for her plight. Many a disastrous marriage has been entered into by sincere and idealistic (but foolish) young men, on that foundation. They are now reaping at leisure the fruits of what they sowed in haste.

Spiritual Values

A happy marriage can be found only where two people make Christ Lord of their lives. That means where God's kingdom, His righteousness and the standards of His Word are foremost, and where Christ is first in every area of their lives.

God created you and saved you to live for Him. We have not been created to do what pleases us. We were created to please God. When we bow down, humble our pride and acknowledge that truth, then we would have found the true reason for living. Otherwise we are doomed to a life of emptiness. So don't ever seek what pleases you. Seek what pleases God.

Those who go to the Bible merely to get a sanction for what they have already decided to do (for example, to marry someone they want), will easily "find verses" to suit their desire - because man's heart is deceitful. But God uses the Scriptures to guide only those who are intent on pleasing Him.

Many marriages that appear to be happy in public, have a lot of unhappiness in private. God blesses many Christian marriages (because He is a good God), but He does not approve of many of them. God's approval is what you should seek for in your marriage, and not merely God's blessing.

Never take a major decision like marriage, when you are disappointed with something or when you are discouraged. Always pull back from any friendship that can tempt you unnecessarily. The one who thinks he stands will be the first to fall. Remain humbly dependent on God at all times. There can be no lasting happiness if we violate His instructions.

As I have said repeatedly, if you place beauty and conversational ability above spiritual values, you will miss God's best that He has reserved for you. Don't even give any weight to Bible-knowledge - because a woman who is a preacher or a Bible-scholar may neglect her home and her children.

I would urge you to give more consideration to the girl's family values. I am referring to down-to-earth practical matters such as the way a home is kept, the importance given to motherhood and the bringing up of children. A girl need not have had believing parents in order to acquire these values. Even a girl coming from a divorced home can acquire godly home-values. So the faith of her parents is not the criterion, but her own faith. I have seen girls who have come from broken homes, who by the grace of God, have acquired godly values and become excellent wives and mothers.

Practical Considerations

I would urge on you the utmost caution in mingling with girls. Remember that discretion is the mother of virtue. Be wise. Always keep a distance from girls who want to cling to you or who appear eager to grab you quickly to be their husbands. And never become too friendly with any girl who is not a wholehearted disciple of Jesus. Keep yourself pure.

There are many good brothers who are trapped into marriage by the "sob-sob" stories that young girls tell them. They are drawn to the girls through sympathy and then enticed into "petting" first and then fornication and finally trapped into marriage. So be extremely careful of any girl who tells you sad stories that make you feel sorry for her.

Don't ever allow yourself to be drawn into any type of physical contact with any girl. As the Holy Spirit has said, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor.7:1). That is because one step will lead to another......and that can end in calamity. We pray for you all constantly and believe that the Lord will protect you from such calamities. The Lord constantly asks each of us if we love Him more than everything and everyone else. If you can­­ say "Yes" to that question at all times, that will be your protection and your salvation.

When meeting with any girl, it should always be without any expectati­on of marriage on either side. But remember that women are different from men. Men tend to be independent and don't look for security in a relationship, whereas women tend to be dependent and look for security - especially when they come to marriageable age. So when meeting with any girl, be careful that you don't give her any idea that marriage is even being considered, until you feel that the girl may possibly be the one whom God has chosen for you.

As your parents, we are concerned for you - naturally. But we only desire what God wants you to have. God feeds the birds, but He doesn't drop food into their nests. As they fly around, God helps them to find the food they need. And so, as you move about, the Lord will help you also to find the right girl - at the right time. And when you meet the girl the Lord has chosen for you, He will give you a spiritual attraction for her.

So pray seriously about your future life-partner. When you pray, it shows that you are depending on God to guide you. You can miss a lot in life if you don't learn the habit of helpless dependence on God for everything. The important thing is not how long you pray, but having an attitude of faith - a helpless dependence on God and a total confidence in God.

Regarding the right age for marriage: There is no rule in God's Word on this. Our life is in God's hands. But here is a simple guideline that I would give: By the time you retire from your job, all your children should have finished their 4-years of college and become capable of earning their own living. That will reduce your financial burden. So don't wait too long to get married and have children. This may sound like looking at things from a human perspective. But it is not. We must never be anxious about the future, because our trust is in our heavenly Father Who provides all our needs. But God has also commanded us to be wise like the ant when thinking about the future (Prov.6:6-8). And He has also commanded parents to provide for their children's present earthly needs (food, clothing, housing, health and education) (1 Tim.5:8), and also to save money for their future earthly needs (2 Cor.12:14).

Finally and most importantly : Train yourself in these single years to be free from selfishness - so that one day, you can be an unselfish husband who will love your wife as Christ loved the Church, laying down your life for her everyday as Christ did for you, and loving her as you would our own body. Read and meditate on Ephesians 5:25 to 33 as a preparation for marriage. May the Lord help you in this matter.

God Will Answer Prayer

So pray about your marriage - and God will guide you to the right person at the right time. Somewhere in this world, He is already shaping the person who will be the perfect life partner for you. You will never be able to find a better one than the one He has chosen and shaped specifically for you. Believe that - and trust Him to bring her to you.

We are praying for you. You know very well that we will never thrust a girl whom we choose, on you. But remember that we (your parents) have acquired some wisdom in the many years that we have lived on this earth. So, if you consult us when deciding, you can be saved from making a mistake. I have seen so-called "Christian" marriages that can at best be described only as "a calamity"! But because we are praying for you in faith, we are sure that God will never let that happen to you.

We pray for you constantly that as God gave Adam a person totally suited for him in every respect, He will do so even for you. We are sure that the Lord will preserve you from making a wrong choice in this vital matter and lead you to the person of His choice in His time.

Amen. That means "It will be so"!! Praise the Lord!

Chapter 62
Chapter 62

Boasting In The Lord Alone

The two main regrets I have as a father are:

1. That I did not spend enough time with each of you individually. I was often so busy doing many things. I have asked the Lord to forgive me for that. When you become fathers, my biggest recommendation to you would be: Make time to spend with your wife and your children individually.

2. That on some occasions, I punished you unjustly or too severely. I have asked the Lord to forgive me for that also. And I want you to forgive me too. But I am thankful that in spite of my failures, all of you have turned out to become children of God - saved not by your works or mine, but by God's grace alone.

Our true wealth is not to be counted in money or property, but in the knowledge of the Lord that comes through failures and deep trials. Jeremiah 9:23, 24 (Living) reads thus: The Lord says, " Let the wise man not bask in his wisdom, nor the mighty man in his might, nor the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know Me and understand that I am the Lord whose love is steadfast, and that I love to be this way ". That is the only thing that has value ultimately. Every accomplishment in the world is garbage compared with that. The sooner we discover that truth, the wiser we will become.

David and Joseph both started their ministry when they were 30 years of age. So you should become rock-steady in your relationship with the Lord by the time you are 30. Before that age, we will all have ups and downs. And God tends to overlook those ups and downs as being the result of our immaturity. We may even despise our parents' advice between the ages of 13 and 30. That also God understands. And wise parents will understand that too.

I had many ups and downs too. But things have been different since 1975 (I was 35½ then), when we started the meetings of the church in our home. Fellowship with good brothers made a tremendous difference in my life. Such fellowship is what all of you need. I feel all of you are missing this in your colleges, even if you are getting good Bible-teaching in the church there. It is the fellowship that we have among the brothers in the church at Bangalore that makes our church such a good church. I pray that all of you will also find some good believers there who are serious about following the Lord and with whom you can be part of a new-covenant church one day. We all need that.

God Loves Us Unconditionally

Satan asked permission from God to sift Peter as wheat. And God permitted him to do so - because Peter had a more important ministry than all the others who were not thus sifted. Jesus only prayed that Peter's faith would not fail. Peter denied the Lord thrice. But, as a result, he was thoroughly broken and humbled and wept bitterly and repented. Thus God's plan was accomplished and all the chaff of pride in him was sifted away. God used Satan to accomplish that. That is one reason why God has not destroyed Satan as yet. Praise the Lord.

After the resurrection, God sent a special message through the angel at the tomb saying, " Go and tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus is risen and going in front of you " (Mark 16:7). That phrase "...and Peter...." is so typical of our Lord. Wasn't Peter also a disciple? Why did the Lord make special mention of him? Because Peter was the one who might have felt that the phrase "His disciples" could not possibly include him any longer, because of his terrible failure. So that phrase was meant to tell him that the Lord still considered him as His apostle.

But in spite of that message, Peter was still so discouraged that he decided to go back permanently to his old profession of fishing (John 21:3). So the Lord went and called Peter back to his apostleship, personally. Such is the love of the Lord. He will keep on coming after us. It was thus that Peter came back and his "faith did not fail". It was not because Peter never failed or made a mistake.

So, if we are truly born again and have become disciples of Jesus, we must believe that God has accepted us in Christ and loves us unconditionally - because God IS LOVE. There are two types of believers:

(1) Those who believe that their heavenly Father's love is unconditional.

(2) Those who believe that their heavenly Father's love is conditional.

Those in Category 1 will be at rest because they believe the truth . The others will remain in perpetual unrest because they believe they must perform well in order for God to continue to love them. Every false religion in the world teaches that God's love is conditional - that His love is "performance-love" - a love that is based on how well we perform! Jesus came and taught the opposite. Yet most believers are still heathen in their thinking. We must expose Satan's lie. Because the truth is that God loves His children unconditionally. We can reject that love and fall away from God and be lost. But His love for His children is still unconditional. The story of the father's love for the prodigal son illustrates this perfectly.

It is true that there are different degrees in God's love for people. God loves all the people in the world to a certain degree (John 3:16). But God loves His born-again children to a greater degree. And among His children, He loves some more than others, because they fulfil certain conditions - as Jesus said in John 14:21: " He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father". And beyond those, God loves to the highest degree, those disciples who have forsaken everything to follow Jesus - God loves them as much as He loved Jesus Himself (See John 17:23).

But yet God's love itself is unconditional.

God Alone Is Everything

Our trust and confidence must always be in God alone - and never in men, lest the curse mentioned in Jeremiah 17:5, 6 wither us up: " Thus says the Lord, 'Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness"

God could use an influential believer like Joseph of Arimithea to contact Pilate (the top ruler in the land) to get "the body of Christ" down from the cross so that even though " Jesus' grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in his death " as Isaiah had prophesied (Isa.53:9). Ordinary fishermen like Peter could never have accomplished that. So we thank God today also for every influential believer who helps members of "the body of Christ" in practical ways.

You can be at rest always, only if you have no idol in your life. Good jobs, houses and earthly comforts have become idols to many Christians. That is no better than worshipping an idol of wood or stone! But many Christians don't realize this. Even the spiritual gifts God gives (like a ministry) can become an idol, like Isaac became to Abraham. When God alone is everything to us and if we can truly say to the Lord, from our hearts, " Lord, there is nothing and no-one I desire on earth beside you" (Psa.73:25), then alone can we say we are free from idolatry and begin to worship the Lord. I pray that all of you will break free from every idol and worship the Lord alone.

Nothing can stop God's will from being fulfilled in your lives - in every detail - if you seek God's kingdom first and if you desire to please God alone, because all authority on earth is in the hands of our Lord. Jesus made two important statements before Pilate: (1) " My kingdom is not of this world and so I don't fight for earthly things " (John 18:36). (2) " You can have no authority over Me except what My Father permits you to exercise over me " (John 19:11). This double confession is what Paul reminded Timothy of, when he told Timothy to be a good witness for the Lord (1 Tim.6:13, 14).

This is the confession I also have made to God and to Satan and to people, when faced with difficult situations and difficult people.

Living In The Present

It makes no difference to God how we have lived in the past - if we have repented now - because the Name of our God is "I AM" (Exod.3:14), not "I was". Our God lives in the present and not in the past. That is why God does not remember our past against us, once we have confessed our sins. Satan and most men remember our past against us because they live in the past (and remember the past of others in order to accuse them). Men also remember their own past and get discouraged. They live in the future too, fearing future calamities that never occur. We however are to live in the present with our God "I AM". We have nothing to boast about in relation to our past, except that Jesus died for our sins.

Our Father seats repentant prodigals at His right hand, despite the protestations of self-righteous, religious people who remain outside in the cold. And our Father also uses the greatest sinners who have repented as His greatest apostles - that it might be made manifest that Jesus came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Unbelief is an Insult to God

All things will work together for our good when we love God - whether we get a good job or not. This is how we should live all our days. All countries are equally good for God's children. Only God's will is important. Then we can say at all times, as Madam Guyon did:

"To me remains nor place nor time -
My country is in every clime.
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore since God is there.

While place we seek or place we shun
The soul finds happiness in none.
But with my God to guide my way,
'Tis EQUAL JOY to go or stay.

Could I be cast where Thou are not -
That were indeed a dreadful lot;
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all."

Then whatever happens, we will live in JOY, PEACE and REST. May these be your portion at all times.

It is not true that in this world everything will succeed materially for those who are faithful to the Lord. The words "prosper, success, succeed" are never found in the teachings of Jesus or of the apostles . You can look up a concordance and verify this.

- "Success" occurs 7 times in the Old Testament, but never in the New Testament.

- "Succeed" occurs 14 times in the Old Testament, but never in the New Testament.

- "Prosper" occurs 29 times in the Old Testament, but only once in the New Testament - and that too in a casual way in 3 Jn.2 - just as we would wish others "All the best" when writing to them.

So these are Old Testament words really. The New Testament speaks much more about the love of God to fallen man, of fellowship with God and of abundant life.

God's sovereignty and power are absolute over all people and circumstances on earth. It is therefore an insult not to have faith in such a God. Unbelief says that God is too weak and powerless to help sort out our small problems on earth. Faith is merely giving God His rightful place and acknowledging Him as Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the earth. That is all. Our Father is in heaven. Those who trust in Him will never be disappointed. He does not explain all His actions to us. But He cares about every detail of our lives us - intensely.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psa.37:23).

Ebenezer

Mom wanted me to send you these verses from DAILY LIGHT (that she was reading today), which coincidentally speaks a lot about waters - and she thought about the waters on the road on which your car skidded yesterday: " The Lord on high is mightier than many waters....When you pass through the waters I will be with you...they will not overflow you.....Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus. When he was beginning to sink, he cried saying, `Lord save me'. Immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him.....Whenever I am afraid I will trust in You, Lord " (Psa.93:4; Isa.43:2; Matt.14:29-31; Psa.56:3). Praise the Lord.

I always felt whenever I had a small toss from my scooter, that God was warning me to slow down and to be more alert so that I would not be involved in a more serious accident later. If your brakes had failed on the highway, the results could have been disastrous. Praise the Lord for His mercy. We all owe our life to the Lord.

I was thinking about the word "Ebenezer" (meaning " stone of help" -1 Sam.7:12). The Philistines were threatening to swallow up Israel and the Israelites cried out to the Lord and He thundered from heaven and saved them. Samuel then placed a stone there and named it " Ebenezer" saying "Thus far the Lord helped us". We must frequently review our past "Ebenezer" moments, where the Lord saved us from accidents, death etc., so that our faith is strengthened in the fact that God loves us and has a definite plan for our lives. He Who cared for us thus far will care for us until the very end.

"His love in times past forbids us to think

He will leave us at last in trouble to sink.

Each sweet `Ebenezer' we have in review

Confirms His good pleasure to carry us through."

Praise the Lord for every prayer that He has answered through the years.

The Lord will carry you through every situation and you will be able to raise many "Ebenezers".

What God Did For Jesus

Here is a song that I wrote 20 years ago, when I was gripped by the truth that God loved me as He loved Jesus and that He sent Jesus in the flesh to be my Forerunner:

When bowed with burdens and with care

Your soul is in despair,

You don't have to fear,

God is very near.

He loves you as He loved His Son

And He will help you too,

Just trust His word of promise

And He will see you through.

This is the good news - what God can do:

What He did for Jesus, He'll do for you.

With mighty power He'll strengthen you

There is no end to what God can do.

Though sin and evil fill this world

And you are overcome,

Yet God's word is true

"Sin can't reign o'er you".

And when temptation's pull is strong

God's grace will be your stay,

So you can walk like Jesus

In vict'ry every day.

When pain and sickness come to you

And touch your loved ones too,

God knows how you feel,

He has power to heal.

Your Father will provide your need

He's faithful and He's true,

And as He cared for Jesus

He will care for you.

O what a glorious comfort this

If you have come to know

Jesus as your Lord

And Elder Brother too.

For all God has is now your own

And He won't let you go.

And now that God is for you

Who can be your foe?

" God is your refuge and strength. He is a tested help in times of trouble " (Psa.46:1-Living).


"The Lord Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. So you can boldly say at all times, 'The Lord is my Helper. I will not be afraid. What can any man do to me?'"

(Hebrews 13:5,6)

Amen. Amen.